Barb sees Dave off on March 20, 2006 from Springer Mountain, Georgia
Dave takes off for Mount Katahdin in Maine, a little 2,108.5 mile hike from Springer Mtn, GA
Hey Charlie! This is from Barbara. Did you know that David is hiking the Appalachian Trail? He made a 12 hour decision to retire on September 1, spent the fall packing and training and departed to do the entire trail --2,200 miles --on March 20. He began in Georgia on the top of Springer Mountain and will hike into Maine. He has been out there 26 days and has not said the word quit yet. He is currently in the Smokey Mtns Park. It has been quite cold and rainy so far. Will hear from him again around the 18th. If you would like to hear his updates send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org Here are the trail updates from us sent to e-mail followers so far:
March 18, 2006
Yesterday afternoon David and I completed two weeks of Katrina clean up in Moss Point Mississippi with two very different groups and how I wish I could say the entire job is done! But no, we must leave the rest for those who follow. What an experience!
During the first week with CMSU students--18 of them--we worked at Kreole UMC and Safe Harbor UMC in Moss Point. We divided into three teams. One put a sub floor in a small house and replaced some walls. Another worked in the sanctuary and parsonage at Kreole which had had three foot of water inside, and the third removed all the interior sheetrock from a home that had also been flooded. We heard stories of some earlier teams who did the 'mucking out' of the flood sludge. Glad I missed that part.
This past week we were with a very small group from Lincoln University in Jeff. We moved to Dantzler UMC, also in Moss Point and were assigned a roof replacement for a Mr. Willie Williams. It required stripping, replacing some damaged sheathing, and re-shingling. We finished that in three days. Then, we were sent to do a small emergency roof job for 'Miss Linda' that took one morning. Then, for the remaining 1 1/2 day we joined a very large group form Olathe KS to finish the roofing for Victoria Johnson. It was completed about 4:30 Friday.
Our lodgings at Safe Harbor (whose facility had been underwater) and at Dantzler were similar. Just find a space on the floor and lay claim to it. There was one shower per 35 people. At Safe Harbor water heaters struggle to keep up so the water was tepid at best unless one happened to be one of the first back from the job site for the day. At Dantzler they pulled water off the boiler so we had the luxury of hot water for the five-minute limit. Also, volunteers from the church kept a supply of clean fresh towels for our use and that was pure gift....small things mean a lot!
Through the efforts of community volunteers, church members, and team members we have been well fed. At Safe Harbor the evening meals were being cooked by Betty Hunter in her home and delivered and served with the help of her daughter. The waters had spared her home. She is about 80 and cooking for about that many! Her offerings included the best gumbo I have ever tasted, sweet tea, and wonderful fried catfish. She told David she was grateful to have lived to see the aftermath of Katrina because she had grown cynical and fearful watching the news and that the flow of loving volunteers who came had renewed her faith in the goodness of people.
Even though the work is hard and the conditions very basic, there is great joy in being here. We were approached many times by persons in stores, restaurants, the laundro-mat who noticed our tee shirts and came up to thank us for coming. As we worked on the roofs persons driving by would honk and wave a greeting. The homeowners often cried tears of relief to have our help.
Each week of our participation the church had 80 to 100 volunteers in residence. The members do all they can to support the workers. The pastors have, in addition to their normal duties, often taken on construction supervision, materials location, team co-ordination and labor allocation, and social work as they decide who needs help. The pastor of Dantzler, David Greer, is a retired Army General and I'm thinking that his military training has been a benefit when it comes to organizing the troops. One day this week I came back to the church to pick up a tool we needed and found him using an electric floor scrubber on the bathrooms!
Over Spring break it is estimated that 22,000 college students will be in Mississippi alone.
There is need not only for debris cleaning and construction, but also for persons who will cook, do inventory, wash dishes, and relieve the two ladies who wash towels! I would encourage you to hook up with a VIM group and come on down!
there has been the privilege of hearing the stories. The residents
have stories, the pastors have stories, the cooks have stories, the other
volunteers have stories, everyone who is surviving the grief, loss, devastation,
re-construction has stories. Many of them are stories of hope.
MARCH 21, 2006
This is coming to you from Waverly TN.
I am on my way toward home after putting David out on the AT yesterday—Monday March 20 about 11:30 am
spent two days (Sat and Sun) shun-piking our way from Moss Point to Amocalola
Falls state Park north of Atlanta. We spent the night in the beautiful
lodge near the falls, had a great dinner, and spent the evening doing a
final check on his gear and packing him up. He could see no reason
to delay so, following breakfast, registering, having his official through
hiker attempter photo taken, weighing his pack (44 lbs), and saying good-bye,
all the AT hike followers: reports and notes from me--Barbara will
be signed "bjc"
Those coming directly form David will
be signed "dcc"
this one is from me. He will be
in a town in about six days.
David and I left Moss Point late on Saturday
morning the 18th and shun-piked (a word for traveling without using Interstate
Highways) our way across Alabama to Amicolola Falls State Park north of
We traveled through many small towns and lots of Pine woods. We stopped Saturday evening to spend some time exploring in the town where my paternal grandparents lived out the last 65 years of their long lives and where I had not been since I was seventeen.
Late Sunday afternoon (the 19th) we checked ck-list and re-packing his gear one last time. It was overcast, and the view of the mountains (technically 'foothills') out our room window could be intimidating. The starting point is at Springer Mountain about 3200 feet............yet, he was very calm even after checking the weather channel and learning the forecast.
We met up with some other beginners in the lobby at the lodge and I think it was encouraging to have the prospect of company at the beginning. Among them were John and Jill from Gainesville FL--not a couple--just friends. But, every other hiker we saw was at least 20 years younger!!!!
Following breakfast on Monday morning (39 degrees at the hotel desk thermometer) we went to the Visitor's Center for check-in. It was raining a steady drizzle. He weighed his pack--44 pounds! They took his photo (so 'Search and Rescue" can recognize him???) and it was posted on the board with all the other hopeful 2006 through hikers--about 50 so far this year. When I asked about waiting for a brighter day he replied, "I guess I'll be hiking in the rain at some point, so why not on the first day?"
The beginning point is 8 miles (mostly up) from the visitor's center. I wanted to accompany him to the beginning, but did not wish to walk the 8 miles back to return to my car, so we elected to drive to an access point that was 1.1 miles from the top of Springer. It took about 45 minutes to navigate the narrow, unmarked, winding logging roads and I was wondering if 4-wheel drive would have been a good idea. We parked and hiked to the top where the temperature was about 35 degrees, and the wind fierce. At least the rain lightened up a bit!
We met a man at the top with a clipboard doing, he claimed, follow-up research. He had hiked the trail in 2002 and written his PhD dissertation on the sociological phenomena of the AT trail community. I think it was entitled, "Why Would Any Sane Person Attempt Such a Thing."
David was in good spirits, seeming to have overcome his initial anxiety upon seeing the mountains. I kissed him good-bye, said a benediction over him, and watched as he disappeared into the wet woods and the unknown.
Those coming directly form David will be signed "dcc"
this one is from me. He will be in a town in about six days.
David and I left Moss Point late on Saturday
morning the 18th and shun-piked (a word for traveling without using Interstate
Highways) our way across Alabama to Amicolola Falls State Park north of
FROM DAVID March 31, 2006
honestly don't know why I am here. I am no longer the paper pushing,
couch potato I had grown to love. This is coming to you from the
Budget Inn in Franklin, NC. Last Sunday I had hoped to be here by
this Saturday. Later in the week I had hoped to get off the trail
by 6:30 p.m. on Friday. I hit US 64 at 11:30 a.m. after 9.1 miles
today. I am getting stronger. For those of you who like stats,
my miles are as follows:
March 20 3.6 (late start)
Mar 21 6.5miles
Mar 2212.5 miles (too much, I tried keeping up with another hiker)
Mar 23 10.8 miles
Mar 24 6.0 miles (time out for advice from outfitter in the a.m.)
Mar 2511.3 miles
Mar 26 2.7 miles(took time out to buy tent and better sleeping bag)
Mar 27 Mon 10.3 miles
Mar 28 10.6 miles
Mar 29 12.3 miles
Mar 30 14.5 miles
Mar 31 9.1 (quit at 11:30 a.m.)
Total is now 109.6. 106.6 are on the trail. The others are going off the trail to a shelter or to get water.
Now for the interesting details. There is a phenomenon called TRAIL MAGIC. Some hikers who have made it all the way to Mount Katahdin have never experienced it. I have experienced it three times in 12 days. The first was the first 12-mile day—March 22. It was a glorious day and I was hiking with a newly retired 58-year-old teamster named Wooden Sticks. We came upon a hiker with a much smaller pack going the opposite way. He had on patches stating that he had completed both the AT and Pacific Crest. He told us he was getting in shape to do the Continental Divide Trail. He reached into his bag and gave us each a Milky Way. Trail Angel #1
On Sunday the 26th, I was barely alive. I had elected not to bring a tent and had spent the night on the ground just below the peak of Blue Mountain. Temperature was in the teens and the wind was fierce. My sleeping bag was rated to 35 degrees. As I hiked off the Mountain, I came to a road at Unicoi Gap. There besides the road were Mother Nature, her husband (don't remember his name), another lady and the "famous" Stump Knocker. The had hot coffee, hot tea, water, all sorts of soft drinks, burned hot dogs (just the way I like them) on a grill, chips, potato salad, and all sorts of home baked goodies. They told me many people drove this road to go to Hiawassee. There would be no outfitter in Hiawassee, but someone who drive me to Neal’s Gap where I could get a tent and a better sleeping bag. I said goodbye to Wooden Sticks and turned to see if I could catch a ride to Hiawassee. Seconds later a van from the Hiawassee Inn pulled up. Out stepped Hong Kong, a big hairy fellow with a tattoo of the whole trail on his arm asking if anyone needed a ride to town. Trail Angels # 2-6.
Yesterday, I was hiking down off a mountain when I saw a sign besides the trail the said "Trail Magic". I saw two tents to the left, but no people. I said "hello." From behind a thicket of Rhododendron came, "Right through here. You want Jalapeno’s on your toasted cheese sandwich?" I passed through as there were lawn chairs, Expo, Recess, Cake and Pi plus 3 other hikers I had not yet met. Cooking the toasted cheese sandwiches was Fisherman Fred. Cooking the huge pot of coffee was Gatorade. There were also soft drinks, chips and a regular drug store of things a hiker might need. All free. Trail Angels 7-8. Get this, Fisherman Fred and Gatorade took two weeks vacation to set up this magic spot. Fred is from Michigan, Gatorade is from Florida. Oh, Mother Nature's husband is in the military stationed in Boston. She hiked the whole trail last year. They took leave to do this. Stump Knocker has done the whole trail 4 times. The first of March he started his fifth try. He fell and broke his arm and is waiting for it to heal so he can start again. Hong Kong actually lives in Hong Kong (works in mainland China as an industrial consultant). He is waiting for a back injury to heal before he takes off this week.
The stories are amazing. I can't quit. It is like reading a really good book and you can't wait to find out what is next. Not much wildlife to report. I have heard grouse and turkey but have not seen them. Several of my friends saw a bear cub, but not me. Pine Trees and Rhododendron are the only green here yet. Saw some tiny purple follows today that were my first flowers. It is one fantastic view after another. You get some jaded. Oh, yeah, just some more fantastic view of a bunch of mountains. Hiking on flat ground is hard with that pack on your back. Hiking uphill is harder. Hiking downhill is harder yet. Hiking up 60% or more slopes is really really tough. Hiking down those slopes is not only really, really tough, but terrifying. I have only had two blisters. I treated both quickly and both are better now. I have even acted on hotspots this week to prevent more.
I have no pride. I got to a point
yesterday where there was a cliff of several hundred feet at the edge of
the trail to my right. I had to go down a smooth rock about 6' with
spring water running across it and mud for five or six feet below it.
I sat on my butt and slid down. I had no faith in my ability to not
go over that edge. So far I have fallen twice, but no injuries except
to my pride. I cannot count the number of times I have tripped.
I have hiked in the rain, slept in rain, cold and snow. I bought
special rain pants. They work really well. Every time I put
them on, it stops raining. My new tent has kept my gear dry
and me. My new bag has kept me very warm at night (after the first
night in the bag, the temperature has risen).
I was really pleased that BJ was with me at the top of Springer. It meant a lot. I am humbled that I was not at the start of either of her cross-country bike rides. I was even late when she rode into Florence, OR. I remember her reporting her feeling of "What? No brass band, no parade, no cheering throng?" I felt that way this week when I came to a tree with a board tacked to it saying, "NC/GA" My first state line!
Next Goal is Fontana Dam Resort. I mailed my stuff that I took out of my bag at the outfitter at Neal’s Gap on to Fontana. I didn't have faith enough to trust Winton the owner’s advice. He spent from 8:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. dissecting my pack and lightening my load. By this point, about 1/3 of those who attempt this have quit. I won't unless I have a major injury.
I am in Franklin, NC for three reasons. One, I am out of food. Two, they are having Hiker Fest this weekend. Three, any one who sees my dentist, tell him I ran out of floss last night.
Everyone….. thank you for your encouragement and support. It means so much to me. dcc
Now some personal notes (be my guest
and read them if you wish).
Steve, Melissa, Parker, Leslie, Matthew, Trey, James, EJ and Taryn, I love you more than you know.
Disco - What happened to me? Have I gone crazy?
Paula - Has Randy considered a pool on what mile I stop? Half the pot to the closest, half for scholarships
Novella - There is a restaurant in Hiawassee with nothing but Gone with the Wind photos, dolls, ect.
Lois - Thank you so much for letting me read Amy's Journal and putting me in touch with her. If she or Steve have email, send BJ their address and she can read my notes if she wants. She is important to me on this hike.
Cousin Valerie - How is Michael doing? I have been having lots of talks with God these two past weeks and he is mentioned all the time.
Pat - Same for Tom
dcc or Old Drum
Friday April 7, 2006
I spoke with David yesterday afternoon. (that was Thursday). He is at Fontana Village Resort in North Carolina just a few feet from the Great Smokey Mtn. National Park.
He is right on target with his 'personal plan' that he made before departure. His goal is to have 169 miles by Monday and he has completed 161.
He reports signs of spring along the trail--wood violets, blooming trees, and lots of birdsong. He has seen juncos, two different varieties of woodpecker, a vulture (wonder if that made him nervous?), and has heard an owl calling in the night. He thinks it is a different variety from the one who visits the Whispering Pine tree in our backyard.
Now the bad news. He has been in a lot of rain so there is a lot of mud. On Thursday he slipped and wrenched his back. It was the third time he has caught himself before falling. The first two were earlier and successful. He said this time the slick spot was buried under some leaves and he did not realize it in time. He is taking an extra day and resting, soaking in the tub. I advised him to use ice.
He plans to resume hiking on Saturday morning and once up into the park--about 2,ooo feet -- the hiking is mostly on ridges with a descent on the other end.
His spirits are good, he is collecting lots of funny stories, and he has yet to mention the word 'quit'.
I am missing him -- and it is not because the checkbook won't balance. It won't, but even if it did I'd still miss him, especially late in the evenings. bjc
is the e-mail message I recieved from David. Makes one think
of the early days of telegrams! Not that I am old enough to remember
them myself....... Fortunately I was able to speak to him on the phone
so I can decipher some of it. His message;
He told me the hostel has a laundry room with phone and computer for hikers. Problem: the computer does not have a keyboard. I don't know how he managed even this funky message without a keyboard! There are so many hikers that the phone access is very limited and the phone number was scratched into the wall, but he could not decipher it.
Here's what he told me on the phone. He is at Big Bear Hiker Hostel in Cosby TN. having completed the part of the trail that goes through the Great Smokey Mtn. Nat'l Park. He took Friday and Saturday off last week (April 7 and 8) to rest his wrenched back and intended to leave Fontana Dam on Sunday morning the 9th, but the storms were so severe that after hiking only a few miles he called for the hotel to pick him up again at the Dam. He left Monday instead and hiked 14 miles. Tuesday 8, Wed 12, Thurs 6, and Friday 18 into Cosby. He said he'd had a great week and is having a "fascinating time." I believe it is true just listening to the tone of his voice. He sounds wonderfully happy and enthusiastic.
He met two more trail angels. One gave him a card that said "Indian Gap United Methodist Church Trail Ministry" along with some goodies. We'll have to wait for his "next exciting episode" for the details. (the "next exciting episode" saying stems from an encounter I had with our daughter Elizabeth when she was six) It does seem that he is making lots of new friends. He told me that one evening he had rented a motel room as there was no vavancy at the shelter or the hostel and ended up with 15 'guests' from the trail to watch the basketball tournaments since it came with a TV.
April 20, 2006I have 1/2 hour on a real computer so then it is back to the trail. I am in Hot Springs, NC. This is not a day off. I am sending this email, had a great breakfast at a B&B, will go to the post office, have restocked my food for the next week. After I hit the send button, it is PO and then trail. I hope to get at least 10 miles today. It is cool and beautiful. Not like Sunday which was HOT HOT HOT and no breeze. I hiked 12 hours and got only 13 miles. Yesterday was hot with a lot of breeze and I did 20.4 miles in 11 hours. Some days you have it and some days you don't.
Thought I'd share what a typical day on the trail is like. I try to wake up before daylight. I dress. I get my food bag down from my tree (this is usually at least 100' from my tent and this is all to prevent a bear incident). My breakfast is cold food. I eat in the tent and then organize my stuff. Next is take down the tent, pack the backpack and hit the trail. I walk alone almost all the time. I would say I spend less than 5% of my hiking time walking with another person and talking. Sunday I walked for about an hour with a hiker I met on my first day. We had not seen each other in a month and we caught up. He was hiking with a friend who had joined him for 3 days. His friend was very tired. I left them as they stopped to get water.
Several times a day, I stop at a spring or stream and pump water through my filter into a nalgene bottle. This takes about 10 minutes and serves as one of my hourly breaks. I try to stop once an hour and take at least 5 minutes without my pack on my back. I sit on a rock or a log, drink water and possibly much on a snack. Snickers has something called a Marathon Energy bar that I often eat. Within 15 minutes after eating, I usually get a real burst of energy for about 30 minutes. It is great when I have a major climb. Oh, the recipe for the bar is 1/8" piece of plywood with a small helping of chocolate smeared on both sides.
Currently, I try to be out of my campsite between 6:30 (daybreak) and 7:30 a.m. I hike until 5:30 p.m. At that time I begin looking for a good place to stop for the night. I am really picky at 5:30, much less picky at 6:30 and panicky at 7:00. Once I stop, I put up my tent. It is a two person Teton. It weighs 2 pounds. I don't know the fabric, but it has withstood a hail storm already. The two poles are carbon fiber. Next, I get water. Then I cook dinner, clean up my cooking pot, brush and floss, hang my food (on a limb that I can pull the over 10' above the ground, 6' from the tree trunk, and the line tied to another tree), and climb inside to write in my journal. It takes me 2 hours to do the end of the day stuff and 1 hour to do the morning stuff. I am often in my sack before it is dark.
Not much time. Statistics: Days 29 Miles 283.7 hiked Trail Miles 270 States Georgia, NC, TN. States Finished Only GA I have another 10 days of NC and then about 11 days of TN before I hit Damascus, VA Accomplishments Just surviving and toping Clingman's Dome, the highest spot on the AT and getting out of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Yuck! Pain 2 blisters, left heal the worst and right heal, back from slip, right knee from long descent last Friday from Smokies, bottoms of feet severe all the time (I think this is like that old torture of hitting people on the bottom of their feet with a cane.
Family of Phoenix - hiker who died in Smokies of heart attack
Family of 6 year old girl killed by bear in these mountains last week
Those affected by wreckage of plane along trail in smokies
If you need prayers, let me know. I talk with God a lot on those long days. Michael and Val, I am still praying.
Out of time.
For those who don't know it, I have 2 hotmail groups, "old_drum" and "old_drum_mpra". I have already erred in that some mpra (Missouri Park and Recreation Association) are on the one side and some non mpra are on the mpra side. Forgive me. WELCOME to the group Jodie and John Nelson, better known as Fal (pronounced Fall, but she did not want to carry the extra weight of that extra l) and Hercules. This has been the toughest week for me. We had rain from Tuesday night until Saturday afternoon. One of the highlights was a small note on a post where the trail it a road inviting through hikers to leave the trail, travel east 300 yards down the road to a private home. "It would be worth it." I did. I was a tough steep hike up a long paved drive to a lovely home. I was met by Hercules and their dog. He asked me to take off my boots (they were a real mess from all the mud on the trail that day) and come inside (I couldn't believe anyone would want a hiker in their home. We STINK). They had BBQ pulled pork or turkey sandwiches, beef stew, potato salad, Belgian Walfles, lemonade, sweet tea, ice cream, other desserts and maybe more. All you want. They did the whole trail in '99 and I think they said they have entertained over 600 hikers in their home each of the past two years. They shared their strong love and faith in Christ and put that love into action with their care for hikers. What a pair! Thank you, and welcome to my emails. Oh, and they are canoeists and originally from Smithville, MO.
Details have been few for a while so here goes some long tales. When last I wrote at length, I was in Franklin, NC taking a day off and attending the Hiker Fest (It wasn't much). I was back on the trail on April 2. It was 11 before the shuttle got us back on the trail. Hiked in the very hot, then the cold rain. Got Trail Magic from Baptist Student Union kids from Appilation State (they were really cold). Rain stopped. I camped alone on the trail. That night we had a very heavy rain, but I stayed warm and dry in my tent. Next morning I noticed some "white plant" at the bottom of my rain fly. It was no plant, but balls of hail that had slid to the same spots. I had no real goal for the next day, but at 5:30 p.m. I began to look for a place to pitch my tent. However, the trail just went up and down, never flat, no place to stop. 6, then 6:30 (panic setting in), then 7:15 when I came upon a Shelter. However, it was full and I was now on my then longest day of 15.7 miles and I was only .9miles from the NOC Hostel. Someone mentioned the Hostel always had room. I decided shelter and a restaurant meal sounded great. NOC is quite a complex. It has many eating places, cabins, condos, hostel, meeting buildings, store, real estate office, all under one ownership. At 7:45 I arrived at a nice restaurant. I looked inside saw chairs on the tables and a young man mopping the floor, closed. I inquired about staying in the Hostel. I had to hike another 1/4 mile up a steep hill to the building that housed lots of games and a lounge with big screen TV. When I got there, I asked the young lady about staying in the hostel. She said I couldn't. They were full in the men's hostel and if I were a woman I could stay. They had room for 3. (I later shared this tale with several women I had met on the trail. They all said I was welcome. After all, men and women sleep side by side in shelters every night). I inquired about anything. It was now dark. She said that NOC Inn was available. "Great, how much." It was affordable. I said I would take it. "Where is it?" She said 1 1/2 miles away. My jaw dropped. "Do you have a shuttle?" No. She saw the look on my face and offered to drive me when she got off work. A young man watching CSI on the big screen said she has to clean up when they close at 9, he would take me when his show ended promptly at 9. Soon Swiss Miss and Composte, a young couple I had hiked with before walked into the lounge. They were surprised I had caught up with them (they are much younger and stronger). She was lamenting that the lounge closed at 9 p.m. and the NCAA Basketball Championship game would start at 9. She played D 1 college basketball and really wanted to see the game. The kid driving me to my room said he wanted to see it too. I asked the young lady at the counter if I had TV in my room. She said yes and with satelite dish. I told the kids they were welcome if they could get there. At 9, the young man, who was at the hostel because he was in training for the week to become a white water rafting guide, drove me to the Inn, gave me two cold soft drinks from his cooler and wished me a good night. I immediately hit the shower (the first thing any hiker does when they hit civilization). Just as I finished drying off, their was a knock at my door. There was Composte, Swiss Miss, the driver and eight other young kids who were there to learn to be guides, 9 guys, 2 girls, 2 were hikers, 9 were guides, all were under 30 and me, the 60 year old goat. They brought beer and pop. So PARTY ONE began. Boring game, but a dismal day ended with a lot of fun.
The next several days were spent hiking to the Great Smokey Mountain National Park. I met an awesome Angel when I came out of the woods. I did not know where to go. There was a lady in a pick up truck reading. Truck was long bed, extended cab. It had a camper shell and a hitch on the back carrying two huge boxes and a load of fire wood. She didn't know where the place I wanted to go was, but she said hop in, we'll find it. She drove me to Fontana Village. She thought that was where my package might be. She said she would wait in the parking lot while I went in. She thought they would either be the right place or who know how to get there. If this was not right, she would drive me where I wanted to be. It turned out to be right. She drove me to my room (about 1/2 mile away). She offered to shuttle me to the trail at 7:30 the next morning if I was going back out (I was not, I was taking that day off). Turns out her husband and 20 year old daughter are hiking the trail, but fully supported by her. They hike from road intersection to road intersection. She picks them up each night and takes them either to a motel and restaurant or to a camp site she has pitched. They carry almost no weight. He is stud muffin and her daughter is stumble bum. She said she doesn't know how he got that trail name. What a way to hike?
Fontana was nice and I saw several hikers I had seen earlier. I was somewhat afraid of the Smokies, but fear is a waste. The mountains never go away. They don't get any smaller than they are by my worry. I just face them. Some are much harder than others, but I just go slower. The thing is, you just keep going. Eventually you are at the top of the mountain. The Smokies are where I met Trail Angel Jane. She is on our list and I got a nice note from her this morning. She actually knew Phoenix, the hiker who died. She also knew the plane crash was several years old. She too has seen the wreckage. My descent from the Smokies was an 18.3 mile day, new record. It ended with Trail magic, a case of warm coke, sitting where the trail it the road. Minutes later we (Skunk and Lone Star) had crossed a small climb out of the park and descended by the first of many beautiful mountain crashing streams. Complete with waterfalls. Since then I have seen many more, but this was my first. We were only in this spot 15 minutes when we hit another road with bridge over the Pigeon River followed by an Interstate to go under. On the bridge, a black pickup truck, pulled to a stop next to us and asked if we were through hikers? When we said yes, out popped Spoon Man, AT '05. He was excited to share his tales and hear ours. He was passing through the area and loaded his truck with goodies, including ice cold Pepsi. He is now on the email list and I got a nice note from him this morning.
My night that night was from Standing Bear Hostel (where I sent you an email without a keyboard). Some of you think hiking this far is tough. Try sending a letter without a keyboard. The next day I took, "one step outside my comfort zone" and went swimming on my day off. Bluebird, a lady from Hershey, PA (yes that is who she worked for and yes she got all the free chocolate she wanted) and Baldilocks, a fellow from Savanah, GA (he went to school at SEMO and fondly remembered the Johnson Shut-ins). We swam in the Big Creek, inside the Great Smokies, and dove off a rock as big as a house into a deep pool in this crashing stream. I did not want to do this, but BJ says, "REAL LIFE is one step outside your comfort zone." I am detirmined to experience REAL LIFE. I had fun.
That night was PARTY TWO. This time not as much fun as all the young men at the hostel went out and bought huge quantities of beer. The weren't bad, but played music and talked until 3 a.m. (tough to sleep). Several came into the bunk house so drunk they fell over furniture. One just slept on the floor. I got up before 6 a.m. and hit the trail just as dawn was breaking. I had my own Easter Sunrise service, shared with 3 chipmunks, the first and only I had seen on the trail to date. The hike was mostly climbs and really tough. I did 13.8 miles in 12 hours. The highlights were mentioned last time. Trail Magic 3 times within 1/4 mile. Seeing Little Wing and Flat Rocks, two hikers I met at Springer Mountain (the start of the trail). I was disappointed that Julie Andrews was not at the summit of Max Patch singing "The Hills Are Alive With the Sound of Music." It looked just like the movie, big grassy plane on top of a mountain with other mountains all around. From Max Patch, I hiked over 20 miles (20.4 my current record) to the town of Hot Springs. Just stayed overnight to email, get mail, food and eat. The problem was that I did not get out of town until after 2 p.m. Check out the milage for hiking each day in this area from Hot Springs to Erwin, 7.4, 8.3, 14.2, 6.8, 15.7 and 18.0. It was the hardest week so far. Two nights my feet were white on the soles (not normail white people white, white like the paper you put into your printer) and so wrinkled I thought they were a releaf(sp?) map. I got two blisters (first since the first week). One is much better today and one is not. BJ asked if they bothered me much yesterday. I did 18 miles. I know there is pain, but I just block it out and go on. I think that is something we often have to do in life whether the pain is physical or emotional. As tough as the week was, I thanked God for the rain. This area really needed it. I got to see 3 deer yesterday morning on top of Big Bald. The day before that I saw a fox and I saw a hawk knock another bird out of the sky. The hawk did not catch it, but the bird went into a tail spin straight down into the woods. Saw a very orange lizard yesterday also. In the Smokies, I encountered a doe just munching ahead of me. I stopped, she ate as I enquired about her children, she posed for a picture and then we walked down the trail together, her in front about 10 yards, me trailing, until she turned and quickly disappeared into the woods. So, cool.
Now for business.
1 - Cindy Harper, do you think you could ask Advisory Council members to pledge a penny a mile toward scholarships for the students in their favorite department? I've already got $2000 for PRT if I go the whole way. I have done 338 miles so far and am really detirmined. Past hikers say when I leave TN (about 12 more days) it gets easier (the hiking, not the life) until New Hampshire where it is really tough.
2 - I was delighted to get real mail at Hot Springs. I don't know if I can remember them all, but thanks even if I leave your name out Hugh, Wanda, Wesley Chapel Friends, Sharon and Pat. It meant a lot. Thanks also for the emails of encouragement from so many others as well.
3 - Paul Chambers sent me an email that had a question I just answered for him. I should have done all. He wanted to know if he could send me something. Please don't, I cannot carry the weight.
4 - The library says my time is up. Later. Old Drum BJ forward please
Now to the health situation: The 2 new blisters from the rains (7 out of 8 hiking days) are completely better. My sore knee is better. The pinched shoulder nerve is better. I have now lost 15 pounds since I started. The bottoms of my feet are still in great pain every night. Thank you ibupropen for the ability to sleep. The bad news now is that I am now suffering from WHITE BLAZE FEVER. It doesn't seem to matter how you treat your water. It doesn't matter how you eat. It is going through all the hikers now. It hits the young hikers. It hits the old hikers. It hits the strong and fast as well as the weak and slow (that's me). Let me tell you the story of one hiker and his bout with it this week.
Tuesday I hiked for a short while with 8 really neat young kids. We went to the Laurel Falls. A beautiful and impressive waterfall. When we were done playing at the bottom of this 100' fall, we all headed down the trail by the Laurel Fork, a beautiful mountain river. Soon all of the young hikers were way past me down the trail except for Cash. Cash is a neat superfit, athletic young hispanic kid from Dallas. We talked and walked together for 20 minutes when he finally put it into "kid gear" and disappeared down the trail. Soon it was time for lunch. I saw a great log beside the trail and sat to enjoy my burito and cheese lunch. The river was rushing by. It was great. Just as I was finishing lunch, Cash came frantically running toward me back down the trail. He had a bad case of White Blaze Fever. "Where are they? I think I'm lost. All I can see is Blue Blazes." Yes, another hiker had the Fever.
Maybe it is time for me to give you a lesson in the trail dictionary. Don't worry, the test won't be until July 1. So, you have time to study.
WHITE BLAZE FEVER - I have no map to get to Maine. You don't need one. The trail is marked with 2 x 8 inch rectangular vertical white paint. This is placed on trees, rocks, roads, sign posts. Sometimes they are 20 to 30 feet apart. Sometimes they are a mile apart (where the trail is hard to get off and lost). When there are 2 blazes (one on top of another), it means pay carefull attention. There is a change coming. It might signal water, a shelter, a turn or another trail is crossing. We fixate on these white blazes. When we have not seen one in a while, we get worried that we are on the wrong trail (Cash had missed the double blaze for a sharp turn). All AT hikers suffer from White Blaze Fever. The only cure is to get off the trail and go home.
BLUE BLAZER - For you MPRA people, this has nothing to do with what Bob Hall is wearing. This is the common color for trails other than the AT. It is OK to go down a Blue Blaze trail to go to a shelter, water or a scenic view. To complete the AT properly, you should return to the White Blaze trail to continue. A Blue Blazer is a person who takes a Blue Blaze trail to short cut the trail or take an easier route.
YOGI - No, this is not a relaxation exercise to rest your body at the end of the day. This is a special skill to con naive tourist out of their food. This is especially valuable at Shenandoah National Park. The trail passes very close to a number of picnic areas. Go to a family dining on a scrumpcious lunch. Ask if you can sit for a rest just a moment. They will ask about your hike. Emphasize how many miles you have hiked and look pitiful (we do anyway). Ask if you could buy a cold soda from them (offer way more than it is worth). The skilled Yogi will then soon be sharing lunch. And never paying a dime. "Smarter than the average Bear" I don't really think I can do this, but I understand it happens.
TRAIL MAGIC - This could be anything from being given a free candybar, to finding a case of coke by the trail where it hits a road, to a ride to town or back to a trail, to awesome meals like at Albert Mountain with Gatorade and Fishin Fred or at the home of Fal and Hercules. Sometimes the knowing that others care is worth far more than the ride or the food.
TRAIL ANGELS - There are the people who provide the Magic. For me, it is the above plus Jane and the folks from her church or the kids from Appilacian (sp?) State to people I've never even seen.
Through Hiker - Someone who starts at one end of the AT and intends to go to the other end. The National Parks allow through hikers free admittance. Their definition is have hiked 50 miles to get to the park and your goal is 50 miles past the park.
Section Hiker - Someone who is on the trail for more than one day, but doesn't intend to hike the whole trail this year. I have met Section Hikers who are planning to do as much as 1000 miles this year. They often have a job that allows them just limited time on the trail.
Day Hiker - The millions of people who enjoy the trail perhaps with just a bottle of water and a sandwhich.
Slack Packer - Someone who hikes with just food and water for the day. I will slack pack when I hike with my granddaughter in PA this summer. Some of the hikers on the trail have paid people to take them to one road and pick them up at another and take them to a motel or hostel. They can do many more miles without that heavy pack on their back
Flip Flopper - Someone who hikes in the opposite direction of where they are going. Some of the above slack packers are also being driven to the top of mountains to hike down, not up. The ATC says it does not matter which way you go, if you walk on the whole trail.
Rock kisser - Falling down forward.
I'll have more definitions later. Get studying.
Don't forget, I talk to God a lot out here. Let me have your prayer needs. Several have sent them. I've been asked to pray for someone as young as 8 and as old as 95. It is something I can do to help.
Lately, I have noticed more hikers getting off the trail. I just heard Flat Rocks (I met him my first day) has stopped with a leg injury. Jerico, one of the guys about my age and far faster and fitter that I, is now at a hospital getting an MRI on his leg. Best case will be 7-10 days rest. Worst case is he is done. He had dinner with me last night and he is really down. Thin Mint has run out of money and is going home. Paul is returning to his job in DC (runs a hot dog stand on the street). I meet lots of hikers because I am so slow (they all pass me). It is neat to know they know you and care. Before I got to the hostel in Damascus, five different hikers told me to call BJ. They had seen a note at an outfitters for Old Drum to call home.
I love some of these kids on the trail. Cash was beside me a few minutes ago using a computer here in the library. Then it was Little Wing, Bison and now Goldfish. More on him later. He is special. He understands the trail and the hike.
Last, just a few comments on the past week and what I have learned. Do your own hike. It doesn't matter if someone is faster. Stay where you want. I love camping alone, but it is good to camp with others too. I had a week of celebrations. I celebrate 100 miles. I celebrated 400. I also celebrated 1799 to go. I celebrate leaving states. Celebrated leaving NC at Doll Flats (sure wish they could have had a better name like wolf flats, or bear pass. Just not "doll". I celebrated the climbing of Roan Mountain. It is considered the toughest climb of the southern AT. It doesn't get this tough again until New Hampshire. There are still lots of Mountains to climb, but they are getting shorter now. Celebrated leaving TN and entering VA (no state celebration soon. VA is the state with the most AT miles, 536. When I leave VA, I will be nearly 1/2 way done. Finally, I celebrated lunch. This was an easy week. I averaged 13-14 miles per day and felt like I was just strolling most of the time. I had lunch at some of the neatest restaurants you can imagine. One was discribed above. Another was on a rock in the edge of a cliff overlooking a huge valley with mountains on the other side. Another was by a small crashing mountain stream with 2 to 4 foot tiny water falls. Antoher was on a long long pasture with grass about 8 inches and that gentle spring green. In the distance were decrepit old barns and mountains in the background. Service was so slow at this spot, I had to stay an hour and I cried it moved me so. Lunch was the same at each restaurant a burito with cheddar cheese, ice cold spring water to drink and a Hershey bar for dessert. Food's not much, but oh the ambiance.
Thank you to all who send the words of encouragement.
May 17, 2006
GOLDILOCKS (OOPS, MAKE THAT OLD DRUM) AND THE 3 BEARS
Once upon a time on the Appilacian Trail, there was a very old, very slow hiker on the AT named Old Drum. Old Drum was very sad. He had come to the trail for many reasons, but the chance to see wild animals in the wild was one of them. Most of his friends had seen a bear in the first week of the trail, but not Old Drum. He wanted to see some big animals, but so far all he had seen were 4 white tail deer (he could see more than that back in Warrensburg, MO in the City limits in most of the parks on any day) and one very skinny, very old, very possessive cow. Old Drum was sad.
Old Drum was also having a very bad day. It was cold, windy and cloudy all day. It had drizzled some on him as he hiked. He began at 8 a.m. It was now 8 p.m. and he had only hiked 16 miles (you do the math, that is slow). He was tired. He was nearly out of water. He had just 2 swallows left. He had not seen water in hours. He had never been this low. He wanted to camp. He wanted to pitch his tent and go to sleep, but there was nowhere he could put his tent. He had been on the same ROCKY, ROCKY, VERY ROCKY ridge for several hours. His feet really hurt from the rocks. Did I say it was Rocky? Old Drum was having a very bad day.
Suddenly, Old Drum heard what sounded like a small child wimpering. He looked to his left. The trail was about 8' below the top of the ridge. At the top of the ridge 20' away were 2 huge round rocks. Between them sat a small black object. At first Drum thought it was a dog, he had heard lots of dogs howling from the valley below. Quickly, he realized it was a bear cub. OH, BOY! Drum had seen his first bear. Then, OH, SHIT (sorry about the language, but that is what he thought)! Old Drum did a quick 360. He was relieved that there was no Mama Bear behind him. The most dangerous thing on the trail is to be caught between a bear cub and its Mama.
Just then, Old Drum heard rustling in the leaves behind one of the rocks. He looked and then saw a bear head rising from behind the rock. But it kept rising and it was on a small body. There was a second cub climbling a tall skinny tree. Wow! Old Drum had not talked to any hiker who had seen 2 bears. Just then the first bear ducked behind that rock. Quickly, he saw it climbing the same tree, but then he saw a third bear cub climbing the same tree. Now, he realized the 3rd Cub was the first one he had seen. Here is the picture, 3 bear cubs all clinging to the same skinny tree and all 3 are CRYING.
In a quick flash of sanity, Old Drum realized he was in deep trouble. They were crying for Mama and he didn't want to be there when she arrived. Now, a bit about hiking. Down hill is harder than uphill. Down hill is slower than uphill if it is rocky. Rocky is dangerous. For the first time in over 500 miles, Old Drum began to run on the trail. From rock to rock he ran until he was low in breath and then he jogged. Then he walked as fast as he could. Old Drum covered the next one mile with full pack, down hill, over rocks in 15 minutes (that is 4 mph, a new Drum record).
So what is the point? There are 3 morals to our story.
Moral one - Hang your food bags way away from your tent, there are bears in these woods.
Moral two - No matter what your hiking speed is, be it fast or slow, you do have a higher gear available when you need it.
Moral three - For those who do not know me well, I went to my first St. Louis Cardinal baseball game as a pre-schooler. My Dad brought me up as a Cardinal fan. I took my son to Cardinal games when he was a pre-schooler. I brought him up as a Cardinal fan. You are asking "What is the point." DON'T WORRY ABOUT THE CUBS, THEY ALWAYS FADE AWAY BEFORE THE SUMMER ENDS.
I am the talk of the hikers because I am the only hiker with 3 bear sightings. The same week I passed through the Mount Rogers National Recreation Area. Virgina has wild ponies that roam free in the mountains near Mount Rogers. When I hit an opening from the woods on my climb up Mount Rogers, I came accross 2 Mamas with 2 new babies. I was a bit afraid of their reaction to me. I was only 20' away. However, the mamas were more interested in eating the grass and the babies were only interested in staying between their mothers legs. About an hour and a half later, I came over a top of a bald mountain. There to my left was a herd of about 10 ponies with one baby. A nice big flat rock was near. I stopped and had my lunch. All this happened on a rainy, cloudy, foggy day. I watched them for an hour. As I put my pack back on, over the hill came Mom and Windtalker, a husband and wife hiking pair. We introduced ourselves and I told them to look at the herd of ponies. We turned and all we saw was fog and the faint outline of the one pony closest to us. I am so blessed. I am in Pearisburg, VA. 622.1 miles of the trail completed. I want to be in PA before July 1 to make the end of the trail before they close Mt Katahdin. I am a long way from my next town. VA is not yet flat, but it is not as tall as TN and NC. VA has only 2 mountains over 5000' and I've already climbed both of them. Really, if I don't get hurt or eaten by a bear, getting to New Hampshire is very feasible. It and Maine are reportedly the hardest areas of the trail, but that is months away. Thank you for all the kind notes. It really boosts my morale. This journey continues to be like reading a really good novel. You can't wait to turn the page and see what comes next.
May 26, 2006On the 23rd and 24th Old Drum was in Daleville VA (a suburb of Roanoke) for a zero day: a hot shower, a rest for his rock-tired feet, a nap, a mail stop, and a visit with an old friend. Steve Buschor was a Parks and Rec person in the KC area who now resides in Roanoke. David contacted him and he provided a meal and a tour of places of interest to parks people in the area.
The terrain is still quite rough. He reports that his feet ache in every possible way. He also reported to me that he has fallen several times. Once was when he accidently got off the trail and fell down about thirty feet into a ravine. He is OK, but fell an additional 20 feet further into the ravine in his efforts to climb out. This led me to ask about poison ivy as I could picture the ravine being lined with little baby poison ivy plants all juicy for spring. He told me he has had poison ivy twice already, but that it was not a concern to him during the fall........
His feet hurt so badly that he went to an outfitter in Daleville to have his feet measured to see if he needed new boots as he has heard that sometimes feet get bigger with the stress of hiking. But, no, his boots still fit (Yeh!) and his feet are just tired of the rocks and downhills.
All in all, though, he is fine, in good spirits, meeting wonderful people, having a wonderful time.
This is about all I remember from our two telephone conversations. But, if I have missed anything, I have a good reason (excuse?) Our six year old grandaughter has been with me all week (first week of three). I had forgotten how caring for and meeting the demands of a young one crowds in on one's ability to focus!!! She is darling, but also very busy! It does not seem that the focus thing has gotten better with age, either. Will I last another two weeks? Do I have the stamina? Do I have the patience? These seem like the same questions I have been asking of David...................bjc
May 30, 2006I will be more creative tomorrow, but I just got out of the shower (a hikers first luxury when off the trail) and they are about to serve dinner at the Dutch House B&B. I will take tomorrow off as I take one day off each week. This week I have internet access. I am at mile marker 801, but this week has been the roughest on the trail. IT IS HOT HERE! I read a bunch of email of support and this dead tired hiker is ready to go (after a day off). I really enjoyed seeing Steve Buschor. It wasn't planned, but when I got into Daleville, the phone book said Roanoke and my brain clicked in gear.
Steve took me to dinner, showed me Roanoke sights including his office and some of his many thousands of acres of parks. He is doing well and really seems proud of their park system. Like all of us he has his challenges like tearing down the stadium from the movie "Remember the Titans". For you non-mpra people, Steve was the Park & Recreation Director in Gladstone, MO and we had many contacts through MPRA and just helping each other with advice. He has been over here for about 3 or 4 years now. Mostly, Steve now has very white hair, is very proud of his family and if all goes well will be on the email list now. Thanks for a fun evening, Steve.
IT IS HOT.
May 31, 2006
Way back in Tennessee and North Carolina, hikers told me it would get easier in Virginia. There are only 2 5000' mountains and I've done those already. I think I have only one more 4000' mountain left. What they didn't say was that if you are are elevation 1000' and you have to climb to 3000' it is no easier than going from 4000' to 6000'. Plus, lately Virginia has be very rocky and rocks are so tough on your feet. It is now 800 miles of hiking done with 350 of the nearly 500 of Virginia done. I am less than 50 miles from the Shenandoah National Park. I am told it is one big climb into the park and then are relatively flat walk across the ridges for about 100 miles. Yeah, right. I'll believe it when I see it.
I have hiked parallel to the Blue Ridge Parkway for a while. When we pop out at the scenic overlooks, drivers do stop and ask us questions. It is like we through hikers are celebrities. We are really just dirty, stinky, crazy people who think of nothing but food and our sore feet. I am told that tourists in the Shenandoah NP have as their #1 goal to see a bear. Their #2 goal is to see a through hiker. I am working on my Yogi technique. I share hiker tales. They share their fried chicken and potato salad.
The last 2 weeks have been really tough hiking. However, the views have been spectacular. Many of these cannot be seen unless you hike to them. I am really blessed to be fit enough to get there (just a side note, I now weigh 187. Down from 205 at hikes start and from 235 as I began losing weight to even try this hike).
Wildlife is picking up. Every other day I hear of a through hiker who has seen a bear. Yesterday, Rematch saw 2 rattlesnakes in 2 different spots. Snakes have become very common on the trail now as are toads, frogs, lizards and my first box turtle. I have not seen any poisonous snakes yet, but did camp with a high school kid who was section hiking for 16 days with his school, who was bitten by a copperhead the day before, rushed to the hospital, treated and back on the trail the next day. He was bit on the forearm. He said it swelled up like Popeye. He barfed several times that night. By the next day, he had some minor soreness in the arm, but that was all. His teachers were so relaxed about the whole thing. I was feeling Park Directorish and thinking LAWSUIT.
I got a cream that was susposed to take away the deep pain in my feet. It works. However, it also softened my feet. My callouses fell off and I am rebuilding those. I have two HUGE blisters on each heel that I walked 22 miles on before this stop.
Trail Angels continue to be surprises. My hike from Dalesville to Waynesboro had no towns for groceries on the trail. I figured the hike to be at least 10 days for me. I took 5 days of food (10 is too much weight to carry) and planned to hitch a ride to this little town grocery at the 1/2 way point. The day before I got to a shelter (under BJ's orders, I always stop at shelters and sign their journal. Don't tell her I skip the ones that are not right on the trail. She says it makes it easier for them to find my body. I hope I am not in trouble with the FBI. I understand they have taken the journals to search for criminals). A note in the trail journal said that the grocery store I was going to was out of business. Only 1 day of food left. What whould I do? The next morning I passed 2 hikers breaking camp about .1 miles from a shelter. I stopped to resupply my water, sign the journal and eat a snack. They came into the shelter and started a conversation with me. Seems they were a father/son (40/20 about) pair that had hiked 2.1 miles to where they camped and were so tired they were going home early. They did not want to carry their food 2 more miles so they offered me whatever I wanted. Folks, they had enough food for 10 days for each and some of the high priced hiker dehydrated meals (these are great, but no through hiker buys these. They can cost up to $7-8 for just one course. A full meal could be $15.) Keeping weight in mind I restocked for Waynesboro and am eating a little fancier than normal. They were greatful. It is so nice to be of help.
Yesterday, I had good news and bad news. I came out of the woods at a road crossing and there was Trail Magic. The bad news was that it was Flat Rocks. He is a 35 year hiker from Gainsville, FL who I met at the hotel at Amicola Falls, GA (where the trail begins). He was giving up. He said he just couldn't climb one more mountain. Physically, he can do it. He was about a week behind me at 600+ miles. Mentally, it is a real challenge. His original partner, Little Wing, is a day ahead of me now. He calculated where she and I would be and did the trail magic for two days just for us. Pretty neat. We visited for 2 hours and he then drove me to this awesome B&B. For $37 total per day, I get a bunk house with beds (not bunks) for 7 hikers; Breakfast, lunch and dinner. They included doing my laundry and they have the internet. I am in their living room in a lovely cabin home. Awesome.
You need to know, I am about the slowest hiker on the trail. When I started I met a number of 50 year old + hikers. At this time, 2 of the 3 women who started that week are still on the trail. They are somewhere behind me. Of the 5 men, one is on the trail with those 2 women. The others are now off including my early walking partner Wooden Sticks. He did not believe in the zero days (another definition for you a day with no positive mileage change). He had gotten 12 days ahead of me according to journals in shelters. I stopped seeing his journal entries a while back. I have been told he suffered a stress fracture and is done for this year. I really thought he was the most likely of all of us to make it.
Now for the more interesting stuff (at least to me). I GOT LOST TWICE LAST WEEK ON BACK TO BACK DAYS. Coming off Dragon's Tooth Mountain (awesome views), I missed a turn of 180 degrees and continued on what appeared to be a trail. There was evidence of lots of hikers going this way. Mistake #1. The trail disappeared into a steep raveen(sp?) filled with dried leaves. I decided to go back. I turned and lost my footing and fell (only my 5th in about 650 miles). I went about 30' down the raveen. Mistake #2. I got up. I fell again going only about 10' down. Mistake #3. I got up. I fell again about 10' down. Mistake #4. I decided I had gone so far down that maybe I should continue to go downhill and hit the trail down below. Only the raveen curved to the right and I knew that if I had missed a turn, it had to be to the left. Mistake #5. So I left the raveen and headed left "bushwacking neither up nor down" hoping to find the trail. Mistake #6. There was so much undergrowth I really got nowhere with lots of effort for about 20 minutes. I decided the only sure way to get back to the trail was to go up. I collapsed my hiking poles and put them up. Using my feet, knees and hands I climbed up a 70-80 percent grade until a reached where I should have been. One hour of the trail used up with no progress. Suddenly, I realized it was time to take a count of my injuries. No twisted ankles, wrenched knees or pulled muscles. Everything was working fine. Next I checked for cuts and bruises. Not one. I was a dirty filthy mess. All I had was an extra adventure. About one hour later and had completed the hike down off Dragon's tooth where I met Sundance, Too Much and Enough (the last 2 a married couple nurse and ER Dr). I told them of my problem and they too took the wrong path. They were just smarter and when they had doubts, the Dr dropped his pack and went back until he found the right path.
The next day, I did it again at ??? cliffs. Only this time when I had doubt I quit early and reversed my path. On the wrong path, I ran into Little Wing (above) who was lost too. She and I continued backwards until we ran into Bama. We turned her around and finally got back on the AT.
I was really down with the HOT weather the last 4 days. I do not want to quit like Flat Rocks. When I opened my email last night, it was loaded with messages of encouragement. Hot, hard, blisters and all my spirits soared and I really look forward to tomorrow.
June 14, 2006
Yes, I am now just 270' above sea level. For the most part the mountains are over until Massachusetts (sp?). Lots of rocks ahead. I am now in Harpers Ferry, WV. Did you know that this famous town is tiny? It has only 300 residents. I was surprised.
And now the statistics:
Miles hiked total: 1045.9
Miles on the trail: 1008.5
BLack Bears encountered: 6
Rattle snakes encountered: 1
Deer encountered: TNTC (too numerous to count) but I did see a doe with two fawns, still spotted, still walking wobbly and one nursing mama.
Panda Bears encountered:0 (I did see a huge patch of bamboo as I hiked past the National Zoo in Virginia)
I journal everyday. Mostly at night at the end of the day. This is the entry from June 7. Normally, I hike to 7:30 p.m. I then search out a good spot to put up mytent and go to bed. On this night at 6:45, I passed a good spot to camp on the right side of the trail and you'll see about the other side of the trail.
6-7-6 Wednesday BEAR TODAY (all entrees are titled. Stuff in () is not in journal).
It is 7:10 p.m. My food is hung. Mybelly is stuffed (I was in the Shenandoah National Park and ate at a restaurant). Tent is up. Boots are off. And I'm sitting on a cliff with a view of the Shenandoah valley and the sun is setting. I don't need any more.
Breeze is strong. Temp is 70. I saw a bear this morning. I hiked 17.3 miles today. Feet ache, but not blisters. I won't have to carry more than 2 days food to Harpers Ferry. It is less than 100 miles away. ATC Headquarters, new state, 1000 miles. Wow! I am so blessed.
Today I met Jumpstart, Indiana and Sleepy the Arab who seems like a very nice guy. I looked so forward to restaurant food and their blackberry shake. Both were mediocre. I need to remember where the real focus should be. It is not food.
A father and 2 young sons just passed. They hiked down from Big Meadows to find the "best view." I bet I passed 10 "best views." Low Gear just passed by. He is among my trail friends. Low Gear just called. I have a really big bear in my campsite. Two adults in one day. I think I woke the (first)bear up at 8:30 a.m. He rolled up; then went to all 4's; then stared at me in the trail until I said, "Get off of my trail." He slowly walked away. Butterfly Skies just passed by. She had been sick and gone home to recover for one week. She just saw my bear and was so excited. It was her first. What an adventure. Rematch just passed by. He saw a bear a 1/2 mile back.
Sun is setting so beautifully. It is throwing a rainbow on my food bag. Butterfly's new companion, Sneak just passed.
My bear is back. He does not see mein my tent. He got 8' from me. I yelled, "Hey." He ran away. My rainflies are open. It is delightfully cool. I'm going to snuggle in my bag and watch the sun set. God is so good to me. (that is the end of the journal entry)
Not all days are like that. Adventures keep happening.
Harpers Ferry is the symbolic 1/2 point. The pilgrimage is going too fast.
When I crossed the bridge of the Shenandoah River into Harpers Ferry, I
bawled really big time. I told the outfitter that today. He through hiked
in 2002. He said he understood.
Through Hiker 2006
I have gotten a lot of email's of concern about the flooding and my safety. I am just fine. All of the flooding on the trail has gone. There is still a lot of mud and some huge puddles, but even most of that can be avoided. Yes we had flash flooding and that is dangerous. Other dangers include hiking over wet rocks with boots that have lost almost all of the tread on the bottom. Slips are becoming more common. BJ and I ordered new boots just like the ones which have now taken me 1279 miles. These old ones will have to last me almost 200 more miles until I reach Cornwall Bridge, CT where the new boots will be delivered.
Now let's talk about the real dangers on this trip. I'm not talking about the 6 bears, the 2 rattlesnakes, the one copperhead, the 70-80 degree boulder climb up Leigh High Gap where one mistake does not mean a broken leg, but you can all come to my funeral, having lunch in a for real biker bar nor the flash flooding. I want you to know that I survived a night in the Doyle Hotel in Duncannon, PA. This 4 story hotel is over a 100 years old and is a common hiker place to stay. No, it is more that common. It is a tradition. It is something hikers want to experience. As I walked up to the hotel, I asked a passerby which door was the entrance. This place kind of had an old-time wild west look. It had a blacony that covered the walk in front of the hotel. The door was on the corner of the building. I entered. It was a bar. There had to be at least 30 people either at the bar or at tables. They all yelled, "OLD DRUM." It was just like Norm from Cheers. It made me feel special and welcome. I walked to the bar and asked the lady behind the bar where one goes to check into the hotel. She says, "Give me $20 cash and your drivers license and here's your room key." That was all there was too it. That is until she said "now for the rules." She pointed out the very small entry way from the outside just beyond the bar. There was an enclosed stairway with a door on the 3rd step. She said that there is a hasp and padlock on the door and that when they close the bar at night they padlock us into the hotel. YOU CANNOT GET OUT THE ONLY DOOR. Now if this isn't enough, I go to room 21 which is on the 3rd floor. It is a convenient location. The toilet is just outside my room to the left. The shower is a short walk down the hall. The fire escape is just outside my room to the right. Someone assured me that I would get clean sheets and I did. I had two windows in my room. One opened, the other did not. Neither had screens. I later learned that I had the only room with a smoke detector (although it had turned brown from the oozing of the coroded batteries). The smoke detector was covered by large layer of cob webs. The walls were of lathe and plaster. How did I know? Well, there were large hunks of plaster missing from areas on the ceiling where I could look at the lathe strips. One bare bulb light hung from the center of the ceiling. There was no electrical outlet in the room. There was a box fan on the floor (and the room was very hot). The socket for the bulb had one of those screw in sockets that also had a plug on the side. A long extension cord hung from the light bulb so that the fan could be plugged into it. I chose not to use the fan, but to open the screenless window and just put up with the bugs and the drunks in the back parking lot who were extolling the lack of virtue in their girlfriends. Now if you wanted to go to another bar which stayed open later than the 2 a.m. of the Doyle's bar, this is how you got in or out. One goes to the second floor. You go down the hall to the big window in the front. Raise the window. Step out onto the roof of the balcony. Walk the length of the front of the building on the balcony roof. Turn right at the corner and walk the length of the side of the building on the balcony roof. At the rear of the building there was a stairway down off the balcony roof. I know the White Mountains in New Hampshire are susposed to be loaded with climbs like Leigh High Gap. I know I still have the 100 mile wilderness in Maine to go. I know I have to climb 4000 feet in 5 miles on Mount Katahdin. But I survived a night in the Doyle Hotel. I think the rest has to be a peice of cake.
I am writing from our friends', Anne and Alden Featherman, home just 2 miles from Delaware Water Gap, PA. I have already hiked to DWG. When I cross the bridge there tomorrow, I will be in New Jersey, state number 8. I should be in NJ for 5 or 6 days then it is New York, which should take one day more that NJ. Connecticut is even smaller. My boots will be there. I am still healthy. I have a very sore knee from a fall in the hardest rain a week from last Sunday. I've only had 2 of my 17 falls that have drawn blood, but they were really minor. I need prayers for sure footing during the next few weeks, but I will be out of the really rocky after one day of New Jersey (PA lived up to its reputation of being very painful to your feet during the last 1/3 of the state). My wife, BJ, our youngest daughter Elizabeth and my only granddaughter Taryn (trail names Sweet Pea, Pumpkin and Tigger) are all visiting here. Today, we are all hiking a short stretch that I have already done and camping out on a beautiful overlook. Tigger is really pumped. I am too.
Thank you for all of your prayers and support. The rain ruined my piece of paper that contained my list of prayer concerns that you have had me praying for. Please resubmit your concerns. I learned of the deaths of my mother-in-law's Cousin Mack, my daughter-in-law's, Leslie, Uncle Randy and a good friend Devon Ackmann. I ask for your prayers for the family and friends who are suffering from their losses.
Through Hiker 2006
This is from Barbara: see pics!
Last Monday July 3rd EJ, Taryn, and I arrived at Wind Gap PA after two full days of driving. We met Old Drum at the Gateway Motel. He was sitting under a tree writing in a journal and, truthfully, it was his hat and pack we recognized at first, not him. It remeinded me of the time he came out to Florence OR to meet me at the end of my 1999 ride on the Trans Am Trail. He was with friends Rob and Abby. He spotted me waiting at the intersection and told them, "There's Barbara" and they said, "It is not! That's some little old man!" Well, he fits that description with the white beard, the much longer hair, the fat-free body, and the baggy clothes.
We can send pictures, but they do not convey the entire expereince. What can I say???.....he doesn't have the opportunity to shower and do laundry very often so other senses -- ones that do not translate well in e-mail -- were involved. Putting it bluntly -- he smelled really bad.
We were hosted by a dear freind of many years and her husband in their beautiful country home in Stroudsburg. Their hospitality was perfect! We enjoyed celebrating the 4th with their family, had a tour of their farm, were given excellent directions and advice about features to see in the area, and EJ and Taryn even went to the town's festival.
David was able to 'slack pack' which means walking with only water and snacks and leaving the rest behind. I hiked with him on Tuesday for nine miles --- just enough for me to remember why I am not doing the whole thing! It is very difficult and when he complains about the rocks and how painful they are to his feet, he is not kidding!!!!! OUCH.
Then, on Thursday all four of us hiked from Kirkridge to "Lunch Rocks" for a picnic, then back tracked to Nelson's Gap where we pitched our tents and spent the night. The view was awesome. In total we hiked about three miles and each one of us carried their own pack with necessities for the trip, with Old Drum carrying the food. Taryn was hilarious. She was very helpful as she cautioned us to avoid "poisonous ivy" and helped us make blackberry sandwiches with berries we found at our picnic site. She investigated every toadstool, fern leaf, rock, crevice, and flower.
It was 55 degrees Thursday night and very windy at our camp site. We had Macroni and Cheese fom a box for dinner cooked in Old Drum's jetboil and granola bars for breakfast. By the time we got off the trail I was starving. No wonder he's lost so much weight.
We met about ten other through hikers and some day hikers. Most of them knew "Old Drum."
Friday morning we put Old Drum out at Delaware Water Gap and he headed for New Jersey. He looked a bit sad as we said good-bye. EJ, Taryn and I started toward home on Friday about 10:30 after taking time to shower, dress, and re-pack at my friend's home. I am in Eldon as I write this and will be home this evening.
Through Hiker 2006
I am writing from Vernon, NJ at the Episcopal Church which is also a hiker hostel. They are very kind to allow us this use. Last night I was in a delightful town in NY, Unionville. If this seems confusing, let me explain. The AT goes from PA to NJ to NY, but Unionville was just feet from the stateline. We were at a City Park. The town was tiny, but the following happened to us. First a man ran across the street to hold the door to the Post Office open for us. Next we met a City worker who helped us find OK spots in the small Park. He returned with a box of insect repellant for us to choose one. Later the mayor came by to welcome the hikers camping there. What a place! A side note. I had dinner in a place that had a sign on the door that said it was a no smoking establishment. My waitress seved my dinner holding a cigarettei in her hand. Only in NY The good news is that we are now out of the PA rocks.
I read BJ's note. They were bad, but yesterday and today we had
challenges that are totally new. One of the things that I was told
was that you would have to endure Black Flies and Mosquitos. We have not
hit the Black Flies yet, but the mosquitos are attacking in force.
If the odds of getting West Nile disease would be 1 in 1000 (I made that
number up). Then I must have it. I have had dozens on me all
day at any time. Deet does not work for long. It is so hot
you sweat. When you sweat the Deet is gone in moments. I have
swallowed mosquitos. Several hikers at this hostel swallowed them
too. One guy says he swallowed 5 today. It is really
trying. BJ bought me a net that goes over your head. I did
not want it. I said I would not wear it. I was hiking with
two ladies today as I have often lately, Bama and Little Wing. They
were wearing theirs. The knew I had one. They insisted I wear it.
I gave in. BJ and they were right. It really helps, but it
is hot and the weather is very hot. Tomorrow I will leave NJ for
good. The word is that the mosquitos will be with us until Massachusetts.
I have now hiked 1342.8 miles on the trail. However, hikers are now
no longer emphaziing what we have done, but what we have
left, 831.8 miles.
Now, as to those notes that I am the new Richard Ash. I don't wear a baseball hat. Besides, Richard and I have discussed going into a consulting business together. Perhaps we could be interchangeable to clients.
My feet are relatively good. I have no feeling in them. Hikers who have done this before say I will again about 30 days after the hike ends. My knee pain from a bad fall is gone. I have chronic bursitis in both achilles bursas. That flared up when I quit taking Ibupropen for the foot pain. I am taking that again and it is helping. I've gotten poison ivy 8 times now, but that is nothing compared to my mosquito bites. New Jersey is a state of surprises. It has more bears per squirrel mile than any other state. Yet, I have not seen one here. It has better views that PA, MD, WV or Nothern VA. Their mosquitos are worse than I have experienced in either Florida or Minnesota.
Again, thank you for support and kind words. Don't forget to send me your prayer requests.
Through Hiker 2006
On Saturday July 22 Old Drum took a rest day in Cornwall Bridge CT. He was there for a mail drop that included NEW BOOTS! His old ones had worn completely flat on the bottoms and without tread those wet rocks were threatening! He had a couple of bad falls and will be heading into country that presents even more climbing. He said he was amazed at how much lighter the new boots felt as the old ones had taken on so much water that they had grown heavier and heavier. The old ones are in a dumpster (thankfully -- I was concerned that they would be a precious souvenir, bronzed for bookends or some such).
His absentee ballot was also there and a bank with a notary was just across the street so he was able to vote (""YES!"" on Amendment One, people), notarize it, and get it into return mail with no problem and very little hassle. Some of the little towns he passes through do not have a single restaurant, motels have no ice machines, and services are scarce so we were concerned about how he would get the ballot completed.
He has asked me to put long johns and a jacket into his next mail drop. Considering how the weather has been this seems like an unusual request, but he is headed to higher altitudes in a couple of weeks.
His spirits seemed good. His prediction
of a completion date is September 20. I will be climbing into the
car (again!) to drive a very long way..............bjc
The next day I got angry at that little tick. He has made me so mad that my desire to go all the way has really gone up.
I am writing from Salisbury, CT. I am 8 trail miles from MA. I'll do half of that this afternoon after a stop at the grocery store. I did 10 miles this morning. It is hotter today that yesterday's mild 85, but there is a very nice breeze. When last I wrote the mosquitos were awful. They are now just bad. I haven't eaten one in days. My last NJ day was mosquito hell until it began to rain. 100% rain is better that 100% deet. However, with the old boots and lots of NY short rock scrambles, the hiking was treacherous. I fell again. This set my new blood record. At one point, five of us hikers hid under a large rock overhang atop a ridge to avoid the lightning. By 5:30 we came out of the woods onto a road with an ice cream store. After eating, we caught a NYC bus (yes, a bus that goes to downtown Manhattan) to the nearby town of Warwick so that I could do laundry and get my weekly rest day. Half of NY was rock scrambles. The last half was easy. On one day, I saw the following animals on the trail. 3 bears, silver fox, red fox, 2 porcupines, rattlesnake, beaver, and coyote. Yes, the trail goes right through the NY state Trail Zoo and Trail Museum. Oh, the rattlesnake was not in the zoo.
I got lost in NY at Bear Mtn. A local told me it was the last and worst nasty rock climb. I missed a blaze telling me to turn and hike on a road. I went across the road, saw an old blaze on a tree and started up a steep rocky trail. Saw one more blaze and then they disappeared. By this time, I was way up a steep climb. With these boots, it is safer to go up than down. I knew the summit of Bear Mtn was a parking lot and an observation tower. I figured if I kept climbing I would get there. I did and I did. Later found out the trail had been rerouted because it was too steep and dangerous. All the other hikers took the correct and easier way. Another adventure.
CT has been steep, but with the new boots, I feel like I can do anything. I am out of library time. Thanks for all the prayers and support. I hit state 11 tomorrow. 1484.8 miles done. 689.8 to go. Disco and Rand. There is a Dan's Pulpit. The view is beautiful. CT has Rand's View. It is spectacular. Makes Dan's Pulpit look like nothing. I have all the old ache's and pains. Actually took a double zero this weekend to cure several rashes and a pulled muscle. Rashes now gone, muscle greatly improved.
Through Hiker 2006
Today I met Kilgore Trout on the trail. He is a very nice young man that I have known for the last 800 miles. We have camped or stayed at the same shelter a number of times. The word was that he had Lymes and it had hit him hard. Well, it did, but he is fighting back and is on the trail. I had a nice visit with him. For those who are or have been on the trail, you will understant this. The people I meet become like a second family. Some are immediate family. Some are distant cousins. You learn to care about them all. You pull for them to make it all the way. If they don't, you want them to be at peace with getting off the trail.
I also met Tyvek today. He is a Vietnam Vet hiking the trail barefoot to raise awareness for his cause of having our country set up a program to assist those who come out of combat. His pack is made of Tyvek, everthing he had was made of Tyvek and tape. He looked like a clown coming at me. He had done 650 miles so far. Since he is a SOBO (south bounder), he has done the toughest part of the trail already. If you want to read about his cause, it is at www.thelongwalkhome.org .
Getting over my little ailments has been my focus for the last two weeks. I have taken four zero days and two neros (days of less than 10 miles). My friend Dan Harris sent me an email telling me to quit complaining. It was my idea to do this. So, get back out there and hike. Oh, he also suggested (when I called him for advice on my tendon tear) that I hitch hike to Boston, take a plane to KC, he'd pick me up and hide me at his house for the next two months, we'd play cards, watch the tube and I'd send emails like I was on the trail.
The heat is still tough, but I seem to have gotten used to it as have most of the other hikers. I learned that 2 more quit today. They said the trail had no more appeal for them. It has huge challenges for me. I still have the White Mountains, the Presidentials, the 100 mile wilderness, Mahoosik (sp?) Notch and Mount Katahdin.
I have a shout out (that is hiker language for leaving a message for someone you care about). For the past 3 days, I have been eating and sleeping in the home of Chip and Alice Fenn. For those of you in Lebanon, this is Alice Flagler (Anne Forgy's daughter, Anne is now Anne Featherman of the wonderful home in PA that housed BJ, EJ, Taryn and I earlier this month). They have not only housed me. Chip has looked at my ailments (he is an emergency room physician). They have slack packed me for two days on the trail. I got in 38 miles hiking with little weight on my back while my shoulders healed. However, mostly I thank them for sharing 3 of the neatest boys I have ever met, Conner, Bailey and Patrick, 8,6,4. I can't tell it all here. Ask me about them when you see me back home. They are awesome. I cannot thank this family enough for sharing this all with me. They are true Trail Angels. The next time I write, I should be in Vermont, state 12 of 14.
Through Hiker 2006
Wed Aug 2
It is 3 pm. I am in Chessire, MA just 18 miles from Vermont. One big climb and then downhill to state 12. I stopped hiking after 10 miles today. The temp is 98, another new record for here. The humidity is high. So the library seemed better than the trail. I will go back out at 4 p.m. and hike to dark. This heat is tough. I received a number of support emails which I treasure and they keep me going. I also received a few with concerns over my health issues. Everyday I get a bit better. The shoulders are tolerable. The leg is fine unless I trip (which is about twice a day) and then it hurts for a few minutes. I think I am beating the Lyme. I have done all that the Dr.'s have told me. This is so new since last note. I did not know about this library. Nothing exciting happening. I just keep plodding along. I think that is a great metaphor for life. Much of what we do is just plod along as we work toward our greater goals. The key is to have greater goals.
BJ -- I love you. Happy Anniversary (I hope to talk with you before then, but just in case).
Through Hiker 2006
My guess is that as long as whatever comes up does not involve ICU or a funeral, it is not an emergency. And, I pray there are NO emergencies to report.
He said he was gaining strength, had completed the medication for the Lymes, the leg/tendon was OK, and his shoulders continue to imporve. He is hiking with "Zenon."
He thinks he will be in Killington by Saturday for his next mail drop. Just in time as Sunday is the anniversary and I sent him a little gift.......very lightweight.
Until later. and thanks from me for all the encouraging notes that many of you send to him. I know that the notes encourage him.
It is Saturday the 12th. I just had a call from Old Drum. He got into Killington in time to visit the PO and get his latest mail drop. So, he has the long johns (he reported that it was 40 degrees last night), the jacket, his vitamins and pills, the other little things he requested, and his anniversary gift.
He will spend the night there in a motel, do his laundry, get food supplies, and move on toward New Hampshire tomorrow. It is 40 plus miles to NH. He is hoping to have access to a computer in Hanover on Tuesday evening or Wednesday - his next zero day so he can send you an update himself.
He expects to be in Hanover NH on Tuesday evening. It will take about ten days to cross NH. But, the next mail drop will be in Maine.
I don't know about you, but I find this almost unbelievable! Remarkable! Amazing.........Really amazing. Every time I speak with him I can hear joy in his tone and inflections .........even when he is reoporting adverse circumstances............... He just sounds so HAPPY! And that tickles me. I always hang up the phone with a smile on my face and shaking my head!
1 - Thank you for the many emails of support.
2 - I am at mile marker 1732.7 with 441.9 to go.
3 - All Lyme medication is completed. The tendon has had no pain for over 10 days. The chaffing is not healed yet. I would say it is 80-90% better. I feel very strong. The strongest on the hike.
Now a welcome to new folks added to the group, Xenon, Windtalker and Mom, Trickster and What, and Megabyte. These are all hiking friends who want my messages too.
I want to summarize what has gone on so far on this hike. I have had 21 blisters, 22 falls, 3 falls that drew blood, so many mosquito and other insect/spider bites that I cannot count them, 9 cases of poison ivy, torn one tendon in my left leg, chaffed my right thigh (mild), chaffed both shoulders (severe), gotten Lyme Disease, taken over 3,811,000 steps on the trail, hiked 1800 miles (you have to hike to shelters, water and town for food), climbed up 64 miles (and then down too), encountered 6 bears, 3 rattlesnakes, 2 copperheads and been separated from BJ for 147 of the last 150 days. SO MUCH FOR THE FUN STUFF. NOW THE HIKE GETS HARD.
Hikers say that NH is the toughest state. Those that disagree say it is Maine. First I meet the White Mountains. They are described as the toughest of the whole hike. Let me quote the guide book I carry. "...ends in death for a few visitors to the Whites each year." In the Whites is a section called the Presidentials. There you hike on Mount Washington. Average summertime high is 52. Wind has been clocked there at 231 mph. It is considered the windiest spot in the US. The 25 mile stretch of the Presidentials may slow me down to 5 miles per day.
Many hikers say that the mountains in Maine are tougher than NH. Within the first 10 miles of Maine, a NOBO hiker (north bounder) will encounter Mahoosuc Notch. There will be times that I must crawl on my belly to get through the rock crevises (this is a trail?). I will drag my pack behind me or push it in front of me. When I complete most of the mountains of Maine, I will enter the 100 mile wilderness. It is described as mystical and magical. When I exit that, I will be staring at Mount Katahdin, the end of the trail. Katahdin is a 4000' climb in 5 miles. It is the steepest climb of the hike. If I get there, the hike is over. Oh, and then you have to climb back down.
Frankly, I am looking forward to it all. As my hiking friend Low Gear says, "I am excited." The past couple of weeks (since I left the Fenn's. Thank you again) I hiked with a partner. Xenon, a chemical/nuclear engineer from St. John, New Brunswick, is hiking the trail in four sections. This year he hiked from Pawling, NY to Hanover. I will miss him, but look forward to alone time as much as I enjoyed his company. My health issues cost me about 5 days. Five days ahead are most of my hiking friends, I miss them and will probably not catch them unless they have troubles and I don't want that. Trail magic has lessened, but I did have four in Vermont and one was spectacular. I am meeting new hikers. For my daughter-in-law Leslie and the Perry's, I have a new hiking friend whose name is Rock Chalk(Can you guess where he is from?). Sorry, Tiger friends. The hiking bond transcends the football and basketball bond. Vermont was beautiful. The trails the first few days were muddy and yucky, but the trails in the end were wide, smooth and soft. As I walked, I was loaded with great views. I ate blackberries along the trail and apples from the trees. I even saw someone on the trail in a full length mink coat. I got two photos. I hope they turn out. Xenon said that was not a coat. It was her pajamas. I don't know, but she seemed angry that we took her picture. She kept showing her sharp teeth and barking at us. Anyway, I was excited. I've never seen a mink in the wild. I got a few new prayer requests and I am still doing that. When I say that I hiked with Xenon for 2 weeks, many hours we are separated by 100 yards or even if we are 10' apart, we don't always talk.
God Bless you all. Hikers Bama, Little Wing, Trickster, What, Mom, Windtalker and others, I am praying for your safe completion of your journey. May you see a Moose, a porcupine or whatever. May someone be close at hand to take your photo at the Notch.
Through Hiker 2006
PS: we are members of the Port Washington, NY United Methodist Church
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September 4, 2006 AS THE TRAIL TURNS
Before I begin the new trail story, let me give you a bit of general information on the hike in NEW HAMPSHIRE. I am now out of the White Mountains and out of the Presidentials. I am in Gorham, NH just 17 miles from Maine on the trail. Before the week is out, I will have passed through Mahoosuc Notch which is described as the most difficult 1 mile of the entire trail. Great. Like I need more difficult. I just finished a week of hiking where the longest mileage day I could manage was 7.7 miles. An average day before NH was over 12 miles. On those short mileage days I hiked all day and was exhausted by dusk. Let me clarify. They call it hiking. I call it rock climbing without training or rock climbing gear. Every step is a danger. One could break a leg with the next step, the one after that could kill or maim. Have I mentioned that I am not fond of heights? I climbed on the ledge of a cliff that was about one foot wide for 30'. A bad step and “goodbye Old Drum.” The physical and mental stress is very real……. exhilarating and intimidating at the same time. While in the Presidentials a lady section hiker that I had met fell and broke her arm. A “5'9" 150 pound through hiker female” (that is all I know from the emergency radio at Lake of the Clouds Hut) was up for rescue after breaking her leg. Two through hikers I had met earlier were taken off the trail to emergency medical care. One, “Indiana”, for trenchfoot (that is not due to the difficulty of this area, but foot issues abound) and the other, “Banjoman’ for a very bad fall that smashed his face and his chest area. He will be off the trail for about 4-5 days recovering.
I offer the following “soap opera” script to illustrate what might happen on the trail. Some of the names are changed to protect the hiker’s identity. A fictitonal story (?) for your reading pleasure:
This is radio station KWAT. And now the continuing saga: "AS THE TRAIL TURNS"
ANNOUNCER: When we last left Old Dumb, he was entering the White Mountains of NH. He had successfully climbed a relatively long climb to MT Mooselocke. The trail was good. His descent from the mountain was successful, but left him shaken from the steep and dangerous climb down. We pick up the story the next day when Old Dumb has just completed the most difficult climb of the journey over the steep, rocky ascent up South Kinsman MT, so precarious that Old Dumb had to pull himself up hand over hand. Now Old Dumb is walking the relatively easy (at least he can walk upright) ridge to North Kinsman MT.
OLD DUMB: (He looks up to enjoy the view, trips, falls face first into the stony mountain). “Ooph”. Then, “Sh___! %#%$*^!!! (censored by the FCC).
ANNOUNCER: Old Dumb is lying on the stony mountain face down. He cannot get up. Blood is running down his face and is all over his hands and arms. He is seeing more stars than are in the sky in Yellowstone Park on a clear August night. He unbuckles his pack and stumbles to his feet. Old Dumb is alone. He picks up his pack, puts it back on, finds his trekking poles and limps on. It is 1/2 mile later when he reaches the peak of North Kinsman. There sit three through hikers he knows. Two young girls in their early 20's, “Pill Box” and “Juke Box”, who are smoking ‘roll your own’ cigarettes. ( He notes that their brand of tobacco is “Old Drum” hmmmm….) The other hiker is a 46 year old who has done the trail before. His name is “#2.”
#2: “Old Dumb, what happened?”
OLD DUMB: “I just had a little fall a ways back on the trail. I'm OK.”
JUKE BOX: “You are not. You are a bloody mess. Get that pack off now.”
OLD DUMB: “I'm OK.”
#2: “You are not hiking with that pack on any more today. You can barely walk. The Kinsman pond campsite is just .6 miles down the trail. We'll carry your pack.”
OLD DUMB: “That is a steep down. You can't carry another pack while wearing yours. I'll carry my own. Just let me clean up the blood.”
ANNOUNCER: “Old Dumb takes out his baby wipes and cleans off cuts in his scalp, on his forhead (where he discovers a large knot), on his nose, on both hands, his left knee, major cuts to his right knee and his right arm from the wrist to the elbow.”
#2: “You are lucky we are still here. We were trying to beat the storm that was coming in, but it broke up and we suddenly had a great view so we stopped. Otherwise you would be on your own.”
PILL BOX: “EEEEEK!”
THE OTHER HIKERS IN UNISON: “What is the matter?”
PILL BOX: “Look at his knee cap. It is sticking out the side of Old Dumb's knee!”
OLD DUMB: “It looks like it is growing. I don't feel any pain and I hiked a half mile on this knee.”
ANNOUNCER: Old Dumb is now quietly worried that he has finally done something that will end his hike.
#2: “That settles it. “Juke Box,” take one end of his pack. I'll take the other. “Pill Box,” you go first and make sure he takes the safest way down.”
ANNOUNCER: A while later they arrive at the campsite where caretaker, “Leaf”, a 2004 through hiker gets his only instant ice pack which Old Dumb puts on his knee. Just then three more through hikers walk into the campsite, “Sleepy the Arab”, “Too Much” and “Enough.” “Too Much” is an emergency room nurse in real life and “Enough” just happens to be a physician. “Trail Magic is real,” thought Old Dumb.
TOO MUCH: “Old Dumb what happened to you?”
OLD DUMB: “Oh, I had a little fall between the Kinsman's.”
TOO MUCH: “What do you think Enough? That's a hematoma on the knee. Tell us where you hurt and show us all your injuries.”
ANNOUNCER: Old Dumb points out all the wounds. “Enough” pays extra special attention to them.
ENOUGH: “What medications are you now taking?”
OLD DUMB: “Toprol for hypertension, a half asprin to prevent a heart attack, Omega 3, a calcium pill, multivitamins and, of course, I eat Ibuprofen like it was candy.”
ENOUGH: “No Ibuprofen tonight. No asprin for 10 days. The rest is OK. What is that on the cuts?”
OLD DUMB: “Betadyne that the caretaker gave me.”
ENOUGH: “Do you have neosporin?”
OLD DUMB: “Yes.”
ENOUGH: “Clean the Betadyne off and put neosporin on all the cuts. “Too Much,” you go to the pond and fill zip lock bags with the cold water to put on all the bumps.”
ANNOUNCER: Old Dumb chooses to not put up his tent in this condition. He stays in the shelter with “Sleepy the Arab.” Sleepy always causes Old Dumb to smile when he sees this former through hiker.
After a night filled with a pounding head and a very sore, tender knee, Old Dumb hikes on the next morning to the first of the Huts where he rests for a day. He had a little help from his friends. “Too Much”, “Enough”, “Pill Box”, “Juke Box” and “#2” divided up his gear among them and carried it for him so he was able to hike with an empty pack to the next Hut. He was pleased to see his old friends “Trickster” and “What” at the Hut who stopped in for soup. Old Dumb’s left eye swole completely shut the next day he hiked. Two days later both eyes turned black. Of course, since there are no mirrors he didn’t know it until someone took a picture and showed him. The swelling in the left eye eventually went down allowing him to open it.
Remember, this was just a story of what might happen to a hiker in this rugged area. Glad that was about Old Dumb and not me. Or was it? On to Maine, my last state.
Bill, pass this on to Bama. What is up with Little Wing? I did not see her name in the journals at the Huts. Did she just not sign in? Are they still together?
Xenon, the Whites are much, much harder than what we did in Vermont.
Disco, Congratulations on the NAIA Hall of Fame. That is an awesome honor.
Everyone, please pray for my cousin Carol and her granddaughter Faith. Carol’s son Dean, father of Faith, died suddenly last week. He was a single parent and Faith is just 8 years old.
Through Hiker 2006
I have some miscellaneous news. Maybe not as fun as some of the past news.
Where am I: Andover, ME
Miles left: 246
Challenges left: Maine mountains (they have gotten easier each day, but I am told the Bigelows and Saddleback will be real challenges); 100 mile Wilderness; Mount Katahdin (if I get there before the rangers close it for the year to AT hikers)
Recent accomplishments since last heard from me: I finished the Mahoosuc Notch and the Mahoosuc Arm. The Notch took 3 hours. I did it with another hiker, Iron Wolf. I met him in Virginia for just 5 minutes and had not seen him since. At the time, he was hiking just 3 days after hernia surgery (the insane will that thru hikers have to continue this is amazing). We have partnered up to hike together at least until the Wilderness. The Notch is just one mile. Think about going that slow. It was up, over, around, under and through boulders, some as big as your house. It was a challenge, but actually not as scary as some of the other stuff I have faced.
Hiker news: In the last email, I asked about the status of Little Wing. She started the hike on the same day I did. I probably have hiked more days with her and Bama than any other hikers. I grew very fond of both of those ladies. The Whites ended her hike with a stress fracture (probable, they are still studying) of her hip. She is back home in Florida and on crutches. She wants to finish this hike in future years.
Yesterday, I was passed by Postcard. He is an author of one book on the AT with another in the plans based on this year's hike. He did the trail in 2004 for his first completed thru hike. In the Whites, he fell and broke his arm (a month ago). As soon as the doctors would allow, he had a special splint made and he is back on the trail to complete this hike (the insane will that thru hikers have to continue this is amazing).
Tonight I am in a hostel with 3 other hikers. One is Mike the Hiker. He is a delightful citizen of Great Britain. When Mike was 62, he did his first thru hike. He fell in the Wilderness and broke his arm and two fingers. He rigged his own splint and finished the hike (the insane will that thru hikers have to continue this is amazing). Mike is doing the trail again this year. His glaucoma seems to really slow him down on the trecherous down hills. However, he really wants to complete the hike. He has now gone over 1900 miles, done the Whites, done the Presidentials, done the Notch and the arm and he is alone. Oh, I don't know why he waited 14 years to do this again. You see, Mike is 76 (the insane will that thru hikers have to continue this is amazing). I'm going to get preachy here. You don't have to do the AT. However, if you are not doing something physical, start now. It can be play golf, go bowling, swim regularly or just take regular walks. You owe it to yourself and to those who love you.
I am well. I am very happy. I want to go home. I never
want this hike to end.
Through Hiker 2006
Do you remember the instructions from BJ at Springer Mountain, GA? Don't you even call me to come get you unless: 1 - You've reached that Mountain. or 2 - It is October 1. or 3 - You broke your leg. Well none of those have happened and I am calling her to come get me. The reason is that there really is no place to call from inside the 100 mile Wilderness. She will need to pick me up at Mt. Katahdin. I estimate October 2, maybe 1 if all goes very well or 3 if a little slow.
I am writing to you from Caratunk, ME. Friday I will be in Monson (the last town before the Wilderness). Saturday, Iron Wolf and I will enter the Wilderness together. He is 66, a retired Biology teacher from North Carolina. He is a former WWII concentration camp prisoner (age 3-6), a former college football player, and a runner of 100 marathons. He hikes with one bad knee and one bad shoulder (he had these before he began). He had hernia surgery during the hike and was back on the trail in 3 days. Oh, do you remember (the insane will that thru hikers have to continue this is amazing)?
Since I last wrote I met a young hiker (early 20's) that I have known since the 2nd day on the trail. His name is Compost (he'll eat anything). He broke his foot in Mass. Oh, do you remember (the insane will that thru hikers have to continue this is amazing)?
This afternoon I visited with The Wanderers. This is a delightful family hiking the trail. I first met them in Damascus, VA. It is a Dad, 19 year old daughter who had the desire to hike the whole AT put in her SR high school year book, and 12 year old son. Mom and the 17 year old daughter who do love to hike are home for that daughter's Sr. year. She is in many activities. This week the 12 year old fell on Sugarloaf Mtn and broke his right arm in two places. He hiked another 10 miles to a road. They hitched to a town. They borrowed a car. Drove to a bigger town with hospital and doctors. The boy insisted that his cast be made so that he can continue the hike. He will not quit. Oh, do you remember (the insane will that thru hikers have to continue this is amazing)?
We have now completed all the 4000' mountains in ME on the trail except for Katahdin. We are 35 miles from the Wilderness with just two small mountains to climb. The trail has gotten much easier except for the mud. It is raining tonight. That means more mud, wet roots (that is what got the 12 year old). The rocks all have moss growing on them. Slick is the word. Watch each step. Once in the Wilderness, there really is no way out but Baxter State Park (home of Katahdin). I hope to climb with Iron Wolf, Trickster and What (the honeymooning couple from Asheville, NC), her Dad, and maybe BJ (that will be really tough for her). This is the last email until it is over one way or another.
I treasure all of your support. At times you lifted me so much. I am crying as I write this. I have never cried so much in my life. Thank you, Old Drum
Through Hiker 2006
It seems everyone there is elated to have made it this far and planning their summit of Katahdin....many are waiting for pals they met earlier so they can do the last part together. He is still with the Iron guy. I could detect excitement, joy, and ....well, more JOY! in his voice. How cool!
114 miles to go. Thanks for your interest and for sharing in the adventure with us. bjc
At 1 p.m. on October 3, 2006, in a cloud, in the rain, BP (a really neat through hiker I met near the end of the hike), BJ (my wife), and Old Drum (that's me) reached the summit of Mt. Katahdin to end the 2174.6 journey and complete my hiking the entire Appilacian Trail in one calendar year. I cried. We took lots of photos. And then as with life, we had to climb down the mountain.
BJ does not want me to dwell on this or say special things, but I was amazed that someone who had not been hiking did it. Some say Katahdin is the hardest day of the journey. I don't know if I agree, but right now I don't know what is harder. Many days in the Whites of NH or of the notch and arm in early Maine were also tough days. I cannot think of anything humorous to say today.
Welcome newcomers to this email address: Southpaw (a section hiker I hiked with in the Whites. Sorry so long to get you on the address as I misplaced your address); Moe (I wish you and Ponch the very best. I enjoyed my days with you and will never forget the Biker Bar); and BP.
For all, if you want to read all my emails, go to kewpie.net. Then find the Kewpie of the month section. A good friend and classmate of my high school days has them all posted there. Thank you, Charley. I will send a bit more information when I get home. Right now, BJ and I are vacationing by hiking in the Acadia National Park in ME. Later this month, we will be going to Yellowstone to possibly do some snowshoe hiking (neither has ever done that). Thank you all for your support.
This is dangerous because I am going to send out a bunch of thank you's here and I will probably forget someone. I apologize for that. There is no order to the groups or to the position on the email.
Hikers: Bama and Little Wing - for me it is hard to say one name without the other. I hiked a lot of miles with them. They are very special to me. They were great company. They pushed me sometimess. They were concerned about my health. It was Bama who insisted I get to a Dr. asap for the Lyme
B.P. - I hiked with B.P. for a couple of days at the end. Talking with him made a 17 mile day in pouring rain go by so quickly. His concern for me and especially by wife BJ on the Katahdin Climb I will never forget.
Trickster and What - I don't have enough words to say how much they mean to me. I don't know if I think of them as my kids or my parents. It was awesome to be around them from Virginia to the top of Mt. Katahdin. Oh, and I really liked hiking with Trickster's father, Daddylonglegs.
Xenon - He picked me up and we pushed each other after I returned to the trail from the Lyme, torn tendon, chaffing episode.
Wooden Sticks - He taught me a lot in the beginning and helped me get past some of my initial fears.
Postcard - Hiking advice both way back in Virginia and later in Maine.
Iron Wolf - I think we may have been the Odd Couple, but he was and is my partner in the end.
All the hikers I met who hiked, camped, sheltered, ate, talked and encouraged me. There are literally 100's.
Trail Angels: Fenn Family - The housed me, fed me and cared for me during my worst time. The shared the joy and life of their wonderful boys.
Nelson's - What a house! What a meal! Good people.
Jane Brewer and crew - What a ministry!
Spoonman - What enthusiasm!
Father Leo - He took me to the Dr. when I had Lyme. Thanks to all the Franciscans at Graymore.
So many more who I cannot remember or never knew who you were. I doubt I make without you Angels.
My Heroes: Too Much and Enough - They were the nurse and doctor who cared for me when I had the fall in the Whites. They carried some of my stuff the next day. I also enjoyed hiking and being in hostels with them. Good Folks.
BP, What and Trickster - see above
#2, Pill Box, Juke Box - Great to hike and camp with. However, they plucked a bloody, broken hiker off North Kinsman and wouldn't leave me until they knew I was OK. The 2 Box's also sent #2 back to the tough part of the downhill on Mousilocke to be sure I was OK. Thanks to all my heroes.
Helpers: BJ - "Don't you . . . ." Plus all the packages, the summitts and the love.
Pat - All the calls and keeping the family informed.
Featherman's - Your home, warmth, hospitality and later Alice.
Mt. Rogers Outdoor store in Damascus - passed up a sale to help my feet.
Winton at Neal's Gap - lightened my load, sold me only gear that I used and at a price that was fair
Backwood's store in Overland Park, KS - sold me gear that was good, especially my boots.
Amy Robbins - The only thru-hiker who I had the oppurtunity to gather advice and encouragement. By the way, she is encouraging me to do the Pacific Crest Trail now. I am thinking about it. Any other hikers????
Steve Jones - Seems like half the stuff in my pack belongs to my son-in-law.
Repeat emailers - I know I am going to forget someone here. These are the ones who not only sent me great encouragement, but often some deep thoughts too.
everyone who sent 1 or more emails
everyone who bothered to read my emails
I feel like we did it together. I love you all, Old Drum