The adventure ends…

Unfortunately, life happened and I needed to pull off the trail last week and deal with a personal matter. With winter coming early, it makes picking up where I pulled off quite dangerous so I will finish this journey at a later point in my life.

I will say this was truly a fantastic experience, definitely the hardest fun I’ve ever had in my life. I am thankful that I had this opportunity to not only hike the AT, but also to meet and speak with a large cross-section of Americans. I can state unequivocally that there are some amazingly kind and loving and generous people in the USA and I will definitely pay the kindness shown to me forward.

For the record, I have never been in so much constant pain in my life, and yes, absolutely, I would do it again. It was great living outdoors again, rising and waking with the sun, breathing fresh air, sleeping under the stars/moonlight,  drinking spring water and seeing loads of different animals everyday. I look forward to coming back to the “real world” again.

An adventure like this would not have been possible without lots of help. I would like to thank Jason(ElJay) for doing everything on this blog except writing the posts, in addition, he also brought me some gear which allowed me to take and post pictures myself and brought some special socks which significantly reduced the number of blisters I was getting. I’d like to thank my father (Robopop) who provided me with weather updates(super important!), some much needed gear and timely words of encouragement and support (there were many days where I never saw another human). I’d also like to thank my buddy Ted who was helping me to manage my gear and was planning to hike with me for a few days as well (Ted, we’ll go somewhere warmer and flatter in a few weeks!).

To everyone reading, I hope you enjoyed the posts, pictures and learning  some American history with me. For sure this is not my last adventure, I will eventually reorganize this website so I can share stories from my other travels because I think everyone should know the story of the night I was forced to straddle a man or the New Years in Japan when I was skipping down a street kissing everyone I saw:-)

Peace,
Freebird (John)

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Privy on the trail

Ok, this was odd, literally the trail runs 10 feet behind this privy…must make for some interesting conversations when hundreds of north bound hikers pass through in the summertime.

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Fantastic Shelter!

My original plan was to hike 25 miles today but once I hit the snow and rocks I knew I would never make it without hiking at night. So I changed plans and ended up at this shelter with an indoor fireplace. Basically everything I have is wet from either snow or condensation so I really needed a way to try and dry my sleeping bag and tent (shoes too!).

When I arrived at this shelter I noticed they also had a saw, so I gathered a bunch of wood and spent an hour sawing logs. I am now laying down next to a raging fire.  I usually set up my tent inside of shelters because of the spiders and mice but my tent won’t fit in here so I am going to try and sleep without it,  hopefully no critters go scurrying across my face while sleeping tonight. I’m down to only some breakfast food and something for lunch tomorrow so tomorrow I am going to hike 20 and go into the metropolis of Pearlsberg,  VA.  They don’t have a hostel there but they do have cheap hotels so I will have 4 walls tomorrow plus a shower, really looking forward to sleeping without smelling feet:-)

Oh, actually the best part is they have a Mexican restaurant I’m town…

Here’s the fantastic shelter:

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Faceplant

The snow on this ridge was about 6″ deep, just enough to completely hide what’s underneath. As a result, I ended up doing a pretty sweet faceplant with the splits thrown in for extra style points, sadly no video of the event to share…this is me about an hour before the event, if only I knew what lay ahead…

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Today’s lunch spot

Some spots are better than others, quite liked this one. To give you an idea how remote I am, this is the tallest peak around and I still couldn’t get a cell signal. Still a great lunch spot though!

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Making Water

Stopped at a shelter for some water but the spring isn’t running…so had to improvise.

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Sitting around the campfire

I have written the posts tonight while sitting around a campfire. I don’t light one often because it’s too much energy to expend but had to dry out my shoes so they weigh less than a brick. Enjoy!

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Lonely Flower

This is the first flower I have seen I’m quite a while. Was crossing a field and it caught my eye, being a plant geek, had to share.

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Keffer Oak

This tree is over 300 years old and is about 18 feet in circumference.  It’s the oldest and largest Oak on the Southern portion of the AT. Spent some time admiring this beauty, can you imagine the history this tree has seen?

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Ridge Walking

Every day some feature unexpectedly scares the crap out of me. Today, as I was walking across this ridge the wind was gusting to 40 or so and it was twisting me around with my pack on. It got the adrenaline pumping, that’s for sure!

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Crossed the Continental Divide

You see some interesting signs along the trail. I had no idea this was coming up today, kind of an unexpected surprise.

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Lunch on Bruisers Mountain

Stopped and had lunch on the top of a mountain today, was able to block the wind and was in full sunshine (rare on the AT). Spent 30 minutes here enjoying the views and crisp air.

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Day of contrasts

It was in the 30’s on the top of the ridges today with windchill.  Then came down off the ridge and walked through some farmland where I got to warm up before climbing up and doing another ridge walk. Quite lovely, eh?

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First Snow

The recent storm that passed through was quite cold, it snowed 2 nights in a row. Some remnants here…and a preview of what the next 6 weeks or so is going to be like…I fell 3 times today, I hadn’t fallen once before today, fell twice going uphill and once going downhill.  No serious bruises except to the ego…

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Backcountry Bridge

Very happy I got to cross this one when it was dry. I have a bad habit of walking across wet wood way too fast.

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Audie Murphy Memorial

The memorial for the most decorated soldier of WWII.

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Tinker Cliffs

It was a bit of a climb getting up there but the view was quite spectacular. Luckily this photo doesn’t include smell-o-vision…

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4 Pines Hostel

We have a couple of days of bad weather happening. Stayed here in this 3 car garage last night with 5 other people. Heading out later today in what will likely be snow on the mountain tops…not looking forward to it but it’s good practice for what the Smokey Mountains will be like…

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700 miles to go

I passed my personal halfway point yesterday, then came across this super deluxe marker letting me know only 700 to go…

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McAfee Knob

This is probably the most photographed point on the trail and I had very much been looking forward to being here. No, I wasn’t gutsy enough to hang my feet over the ledge, didn’t need that adrenaline rush.

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Can you see it?

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Almost crushed the little fella. BTW,  he made a great soup!

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Daleville, VA

From Hay Rocks, here’s a view of Daleville.  I could also hear a high school marching band practicing from up here, it was nice to hear something other than the sound of leaves crunching.

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Missed the safety meeting…

I did my biggest day today, 23.7 miles despite running out of water twice and hiking almost 3 hours in the dark…it’s 10:30 now, normally I’m asleep by 8 (although I always wake up at 2 for some reason) so no posts today. My goal is to get to Troutville,  VA tomorrow (18 miles).  Their volunteer fire department let’s hikers take showers and do laundry on the county’s nickel.  They also have a park in the city (pop. 461) where you can pitch your tent for free, if they had a soup line I’d never leave!

I don’t remember the name of this mountain, I’d vote to rename it to golf ball mountain.

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Interesting Obstacle

wpid-img20141028_153156.jpgSaw this in the morning.

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Interesting evening ahead

I’m writing this from the Thunder Hill Shelter prior to sleeping.

There is a hiker log book at each shelter where you can pretty much write anything you’d like in them. Most are simple things like “trail name” in for the night, hiked 17 today,  no water between x and x. Well, the last entry in this log book says “bear seen in front of shelter at 2 a.m.” Gulp:-)

So we’ll see what happens. I hung my food right outside the shelter and smeared honey on my toes; -)

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Useful Sign

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Not so useful sign

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More Fall Photos

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I like this one for the lens flare.
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Longest Footbridge

wpid-img20141027_201802.jpgThis is the longest footbridge on the AT, it goes over the James River.

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View from footbridge

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Brown Mountain Creek Community

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Watercolors

On my phone these two pictures look amazing.

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Wakeup buddy

wpid-img20141027_201837.jpgI awoke to a scratching sound on the tent. Opened my eyes and this is what I saw…isn’t it a cutie?

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Odd Memorial

wpid-img20141027_201956.jpgSaw this on top of a mountain. Have no idea of the history, just thought it was a bit odd…

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Nothing Higher

wpid-img20141027_164538.jpgI don’t know the name but I’m on the highest point around and have the sweat pouring out of me to prove I’ve earned it! Of course, about 300 yards, from here is a parking lot…luckily I get to enjoy this alone. Quite spectacular views and the weather is decent. 2 more miles to the shelter then calling it a day.

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Punch Mountain View

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Share cropping

wpid-img20141025_172749.jpgRan across this sign.

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Wind Casualty

wpid-img20141025_172703.jpgThe wind from the last few days knocked down bunches of trees. This old fella was right on the trail.

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Youth Group Outing

wpid-img20141025_172632.jpgI was behind this group of kids, when they got to the peak on the right they thought they were at the top…little did they know it was another 1,500 feet up to the real top!

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Hog Pen Camp

This was the view heading to the campground last night. Pretty amazing to have green grass on top of a mountain plus behind me were all kinds of nut trees and berry plants. Almost sure there used to be a house up here.

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Interesting Rock Formation

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Sleeping next to a stream

wpid-img20141025_175358.jpgLast night I accidentally slept about 100 yards away from a parking lot and people were arriving until midnight.  Tonight looks much more promising for a restful evening.

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The more you know, the Iess you carry

wpid-img20141025_172346.jpgI ran across something like this in NY as well. Looks like someone was out practicing bushcraft.

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More Fall Pictures

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The days journey

wpid-img20141023_194939.jpgThe ridge on the left is what I walked up and then down, crossed that valley below and then climbed The Priest which is the highest point on the right. Fun day, lot of work though:-)

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Knee Deep

wpid-img20141023_194100.jpgAfter the wind the past few days many leaves have fallen. In some places the trail is clear of leaves, in others, it’s almost to my knees. Makes walking quite interesting!

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Deluxe Camping

wpid-img20141023_193856.jpgIt was extremely windy last night, I got up twice to use logs as windbreaks for my tent. The gusts were at least 40 mph. Anways, tonight I’m trying something new, if I’m going to be at a shelter alone I might as well take advantage, right?

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Tye River

wpid-img20141023_194154.jpgCrossed this small river today on a suspension bridge.  Thought this was a nice view.

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Views from The Priest

I climbed close to 4 miles uphill in a bit over 2 hours. The wind was whipping so didn’t really get a chance to sit and enjoy the views.
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The Priest

Tomorrow I will climb a mountain called The Priest. You start around 1,000 feet and go straight up to a bit over 4,000 feet.  Then, because you are exhausted, you get to sleep near the top of the mountain, which should be a real treat given that it will be cold and windy. Should make for an interesting 24 hours.

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Here, once stood a cabin.

wpid-img20141022_191213.jpgThe only thing left is the chimney, which is a bit odd to see on my stroll in the woods.

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Chilly and windy but beautiful views

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Rare sight in the cold weather.

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Back on trail…

wpid-img20141022_103458.jpgI took a few days off to help my feet out…this is the first view from today.

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Photo Spots

wpid-img20141018_210429.jpgMost of the time when there is an opportunity to take a picture it looks something like below. Usually it’s rocky and drops straight down.

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22.4 Miles Today

It was very windy and cold. I was at this spot for under one minute because I was getting blown around. Nice view though, eh?

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Fall is here…

A few pictures from today.

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AT = Foot Traffic Only

At virtually every road crossing you see a sign that says foot traffic only. Sometimes they list no horses, no motorized vehicles etc.

Today, I met a local guy who saw horses on the AT a few weeks ago. A couple was driving home with their horse trailer and had car trouble.  Turns out their property is very near the AT and only a few miles from where they broke down. So they called the Forest Service and got permission to ride their horses on the AT as it was the safest way to get the horses home. I thought it was a cool story.

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First peak of the day!

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Home for the evening…

And yes, I even got a campfire going….pretty awesome place.

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Failed Selfie

At some point I’ll learn how to properly light a photo…

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Mary’s Mountain View

It’s almost a 360° view from this one.

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View from where I stealth camped

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Easy Walking

I climbed about 2,000 feet first thing this morning to get into the park. Once in the park, the trails became wide and for the most part, smooth. It made for easy walking…which allowed my mind to wander…leading to me missing the sign for the shelter I was planning on staying at.  So instead of an easy 13 miles today, I went 19+ and had to stealth camp. I’m right at 3,000 feet, quite cool up here after all of that rain. Should make for an interesting evening.

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Hogback Mountain View

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South Marshall Mountain

Here’s the view from the southern peak.

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Nice rack, dude!

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North Marshall Mountain

Enjoying a snack here. 3 miles to the campsite. Already went through a nice downpour.

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Entering Shenandoah Park

Woo-hoo,  back on the trail!

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Another Rainy Day

I am still in Front Royal,  VA.  The rain hasn’t let up yet and we actually had a tornado warning this morning. I am hoping to get on the trail this afternoon and put in either 3 or 13 miles to get to the next shelter so I can stay dry over night.

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Wet rocks

One more fun obstacle to cross in the rain is creeks and streams…so they make bathrooms on the top of rocky mountains which are only accessible on foot ADA compliant but don’t put handrails on these crossings which are usually near road crossings and car parks…some day I aspire to understand this type of logic.

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Slow going…

One of the things I’ve learned to fear is walking over wet wood with muddy shoes…I have come very close to falling off these planks many times…luckily my poles and sloth like reflexes have saved me.

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Cloudy Day

It rained most of today, never got a chance to enjoy a view. Naturally, the trail went straight up this mountain.

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Happy Camper

There is some bad weather moving into the area (Front Royal, VA) and I learned last night that my tent seam sealing job wasn’t a 100% success…so I am smiling here because I was less than 10 miles from a hostel where I could stay dry for the next day or two while I also do a bit of gear repair.

Oh, I also get a shower and get my laundry done…woo-hoo!

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The Roller Coaster

Did a 13 mile section called The Roller Coaster today. The weather was supposed to be sunny and warm, then rain for the next 2 days. Well, around 11 a cool wind started blowing, by 2 it was raining and windy. So not a lot of pictures from today, most of my day was spent trying not to fall on my butt.  I am hiking with a group at the moment,  but we are usually in bed by 7:30, a few funny stories to share soon.

I believe this was the view from Buzzard Rocks.  I enjoyed it for about 8 seconds before I got too cold…

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Gonna be a great day!

Less than 5 minutes into today’s hike and this was my view…

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Lock 32

wpid-img20141009_204122.jpgHere’s a photo of Lock #32 from the C & O Canal.  For those unfamiliar with this area, they built, by hand,  a tow path and waterway next to the Chesapeake & Ohio Rivers to move goods via mule and boat. Much of the area is now overgrown and unrecognizable but this Lock was preserved. Neat piece of engineering and American history.

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Virginia is for…

wpid-img20141009_204851.jpgI don’t know if it’s still the case or not but when I lived in the DC area, the advertising slogan for Virginia was “Virginia is for lovers”…so it was a bit funny when I ran across this sticker on a power transmission line…not sure who they are marketing to these days but found tjou h the I’d share.

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The capture of Harper’s Ferry

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The seasons they are a changin’

wpid-20141010_121710.jpgIt’s been many years since I’ve seen the seasons change. Looking forward to the color changes and leaves on the ground (yes, it makes every step a surprise but at least every rock isn’t sharp and pointy).

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1,000 Mile Countdown

wpid-20141010_132421.jpgHeading north from Georgia this sign marks how far you’ve come…for me, it marks how many miles I have left to go…which also means I’ve walked 500 miles so far…

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20 Pounds

That’s how much weight I’ve lost so far…so my 10 snicker bars a day diet is really working!

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Border sign

wpid-20141010_123521.jpgThe PA/MD border sign always gets stolen, apparently there’s still somewhat of a dispute over the Mason/Dixon line…WV and VA don’t seem to share that issue…

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Taking the day off…

It’s cold and rainy here in VA today so I decided to take today off and give my feet a rest…will write some posts later if we run out of whiskey and hot chocolate; -)

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Made it to my 7th State!

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“We respect the journey.”

wpid-img20141009_204644.jpgSo I was having my lunch in Harper’s Ferry when this ‘friend’ decided to join me. It flew off with Bleu Cheese dressing on its feet and tail. This led the people across the deck to inquire about my journey. We chatted for a few minutes, then their food arrived. I finished eating, checked my guidebook for distance I needed to travel, checked the time and knew I needed to get moving.  I raised my hand to request my check and the fauxtographer came over and let me know the people I had chatted with earlier had picked up my tab. I thanked them from my table,  put my pack on and walked over to look them each in the eye and thank them directly, only she spoke and she said “we respect the journey.”

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Lewis’ Boat

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Lunch in Harper’s Ferry

wpid-img20141009_204539.jpgI technically did only request that he get the mountain in the background,  so enjoy 30% of the mountain!

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Heading into Harper’s Ferry, WV Today

wpid-img20141009_112223.jpgHere’s a view of the river and some bridge, nice sunshine and blue skies now despite it getting into the 30’s last night.

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People Giving Up

So I have heard many stories about people quitting the trail, up until today the worst one I heard was a woman fgom this year who had been preparing for over 1year and she quit on day one at Mt. Kathadin, she decided she just couldn’t do it.

However, I met some people today and they told me they ran across a school principal from a small town who they met on the approach trail to Springer Mountain in GA. Basically, he had a dream to hike the AT, the town threw him a parade and wished him well, and they ran across him about halfway up the approach trail (it’s about 8 miles long and mostly uphill). He was sitting on a rock crying, he basically told them he just couldn’t do it, that it was too hard, but since the town threw him a parade, he didn’t have a “home” to return to…ouch!

For me, this is by far the hardest fun I’ve ever had, every day I see spectacular views, see all kinds of cool animals and insects (I discovered paw paw fruit today) and this is the first adventure I’ve ever had where I get to meet real ‘Mericans! And as a side benefit, I get to eat as much chocolate and ice cream as my heart desires and I’m still losing weight:-)

It’s not the destination that matters, it’s the journey, and so far this journey has been super groovy!

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Lunchtime View

img20141008_210031I met loads of interesting people today which is funny because I didn’t see another person until the end of the day yesterday. Had lunch here with a kiwi lady (New Zealander) who came to the US last week for a quilting workshop and a chick that works in a tattoo parlor who is from Baltimore and was out hiking with her French Bulldog prepa r in to hike the AT in 2015. This was our view:

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General Lee Invades Maryland

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The Wiregrass Georgians

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Stonewall Regiment

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“Hallo, Sam. I’m dead”

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A Different Washington Monument

img20141008_210848This one was erected by the town of Boonsboro, MD. I met a guy at the top of the tower who was there watching the Hawks migrate (I didn’t know hawks migrated). Anyways, enjoy!

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War Correspondents Memorial Arch

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The Battle of South Mountain

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Old Cemetary

img20141007_203721Was walking through some farmland and saw this old cemetary, from what I could read most were from 1800’s…kind of cool to see an old family plot.

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Typical Dinner

img20141007_203942I usually eat either something like this or a Knorr rice side with either tuna or jerky…I’m sure in another month I’ll never want to eat Knorr again but for now, it’s quick, cheap and easy trail food.

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Duncannon, PA

img20141007_204031As I was walking out of Duncannon I kind of knew this is the mountain I would be climbing…saw the cloud and thought it made a nice photo.

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Original AT halfway Marker

img20141007_202945The halfway marker for this year was further south (trail length changes every year due to natural and unnatural events) but I took a selfie anyways…do you think this new look is why I can’t hitch a ride these days?

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Nice road

img20141007_203554Was walking through Windsor Furnace park down this road for quite a while…thought I’d share.

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Deluxe Shelter

img20141006_215800In southern PA the shelters were quite fantastic, there is a guy who visits this one every day, privy was spotless and look, he even has flowers around the place!

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Mennonite Trail Magic

I have run across numerous Mennonite’s out here and wow, hard to get a conversation started with them. However, there were two brothers out with their wives and infants out for a long hike and one of them dropped a baby blanket. I found it, put it on a branch so it stayed dry in case the owners came back. A few hours later I caught up with the owners, told them what I did an they thanked me but said it was too far to go back.

We ended up leap fogging each other a few times and eventually I saw them again at a state park where they were ending their hike. I came out of the restroom (I’ve come to appreciate indoor plumbing) and was successful at getting a conversation started. After a few minutes the women folk took the children away and it was just me and the two brothers.
img20141006_221241We chatted about loads of things and before I walked off, they offered me their leftover food…wow, good stuff it was, oatmeal butterscotch cookies and some type of crispy rice with coated chocolates…needless to say, I savored them that evening around a campfire with some cool folks from eastern PA. . It was a great day!

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Rock Maze

img20141006_221053This, is the beginning of an area known as the Rock Maze. Quite challenging to get through…but a fun way to start the day…

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No Freeloaders!!!

PicsArt_1412647221891I have no idea what type of spider this is but I stopped for a rest, put down my pack and this was on it. No idea how long it had been there as I easily walked through at least 50 webs up to that point.. she’s cute though, right?

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So long PA

img20141006_215654A last look at Pennsylvania before I crossed into Maryland today…

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Deluxe Shelter

In southern PA the shelters were quite fantastic, there is a guy who visits this one every day, privy was spotless and look, he even has flowers around the place!

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Boulders for breakfast again…

img20141005_200423This was how yesterday morning started…almost .5 mile of these giant rocks…oh, it rained the night before and they were covered in leaves…let’s say the blood got pumping a few times as I made my way through there…

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Camp Friend

img20141005_200120I was setting up my tent and saw something move, here’s what I saw.

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Marketing Gimmick!

img20141005_200006When my guidebook points out the “Taj Mahal” privy you kind of hope for something a wee bit more impressive…

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4 Mile Warning

img20141005_195929I was headed to Darlington Shelter. 4 miles from the shelter I see this sign…ugh…it meant my pack was going to be 8 pounds heavier but at least there was an actual warning sign… thanks trail maintainers!

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Rainbow Web

img20141005_200225I hole you can see this clearly…spiders do some amazing things..

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Cumberland Valley, PA

img20141005_200047There is a 19 mile “no camping” zone across the Cumberland Valley. So I spent a day walking through farm and dairy lands. It was overcast so not a lot of great views, but here’s one of my views from the day.

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Funny sign

img20141005_195745I didn’t stay here, just stopped by for water and saw this.

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16.8, 16.5, 14.7, 15.1, 17.5, 18.0, 11.1

PicsArt_1412121307456That’s the mileage I did each of the last 7 days. It’s been brutal on the feet. This State (PA) is known for its rocky terrain. My evenings have been spent massaging the cramps out of my feet, hence no blog posts. All should be well now, this part of the trail is famous for taking people out due to twisted ankles, bruised feet or nasty falls so I’ve been extra careful. I met a guy last night (Wandering Stovie) who fell and gashed his head open, met two other guys who cut short a two week hike after 4 days due to foot pain. Take a look at an example of the fun I’ve been having!

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Funny and True

PicsArt_1412247671188I saw this on a wall…when I think of the $$ I’ve spent over the years on camping gear I just have to laugh…

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New Gear!

So previously I posted a picture of my hammock setup. Unfortunately, it got cold and windy a few nights which means the wind just sucks the heat off of you from underneath. I had an underquilt which was supposed to prevent that but it wasn’t as effective as I had hoped. So I also had something similar to those mylar car window screens which did a super duper fantastic job of blocking the wind, unfortunately, it didn’t let my skin breath so I ended up sweating which then got my down quilt wet and wet down is useless. So…thanks to my father and sister I had some of my old gear and some fantastic new gear sent to me in the glorious metropolis of Palmerton, PA.

Now I’m sleeping in a tent with a 0° bag which should be warm enough to complete this journey. I also received some scrumptious homemade brownies which sadly didn’t last very long…it appears I am on the verge of developing “hiker hunger” which means you are always hungry no matter how much you eat. The other night I ate an entire 16″ pizza by myself along with some broccoli bites which were more dough than broccoli and filled with some cheese like substance.

Below is a picture of the new tent…notice the paint can…funny story here…

PicsArt_1412285202625The tent needed to be seam sealed because it wasn’t and we were expecting rain the next day. The sealant has a very strong, noxious odor. So I was staying at the Palmerton City Hall/hiker hostel/gymnasium/former jail and asked if I could set up the tent outside for a few hours, they said no problem. The problem is the gravel you see is compacted so I couldn’t get a stake into it and had to improvise. Well…I finished seam sealing and was in the basement and occasionally looked out to check on the tent, at one point I looked out and it was gone…I ran outside and discovered the paint can was bubbling over, the tent was on its side and well, it was a giant mess.

So I took the tent to the boiler room to let it finish drying and then tried to scoop up the paint with my hands and paper towels…I spent about 30 minutes cleaning it up then trying to soak up the last bit with leaves, then another 30 cleaning my hands as well as every door handle, faucet handle and all the droplets on the floor. Learn from my error, don’t leave a mostly full gallon of latex paint in direct sunlight on a warm day no matter how good of an idea you might think it is…

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Great Views!

PicsArt_1412121819453One of the things I really like about the trail is occasionally the trees part and you get an awesome view of the landscape below. Enjoy!

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Scariest Hour So Far

PicsArt_1412121600022Right as you descend into Palmerton, PA you have to get down the steepest descent in PA. You can see the river in the background, that’s basically how far down the climb was. I took this photo from the “ridge” right before heading down. It took me more than an hour to get down. I was also fortunate that Palmerton had a laundry mat, it was a bad day to not be wearing my Depends!

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Trail Chore

PicsArt_1412125339833I haven’t seen anyone my height yet out here so there isn’t anyone around to share the burden of clearing the higher up spider webs. I haven’t been in front of a mirror in over a week but I noticed last night that I have all kinds of “bites” on my face and neck area…

Which reminds me..I tried to sleep in a shelter last night, this is basically sleeping under the roof of a 3 sided building. I lasted less than 2 hours…first, I heard a tick tick sound and by the time I realized something was crawling on my sleeping bag it was already walking across my neck…I grabbed it and flung it outside(spider of some sort, didn’t catch his/her name). ..then, the third dude in shelter (I was in the middle) started snoring about 1 meter from my ear…then my feet started cramping and at that point I realized the whole group sleep thing wasn’t for me and got up and pitched my tent…

Random shelter picture:

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Peace Rock

PicsArt_1412121649974I stopped in Port Clinton, PA and caught up with Marathon Man again. He was told about this rock the locals go jump off of so we went to check it out. It’s a pretty nice spot as you can see so we hung out there for a few hours and had a quick dip/bath in the very chilly water. No rock jumping, it was too cold and too far to swim back but a neat place nonetheless.

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Ooh that smell!

So I mentioned in a previous post that I am now sleeping in a tent, one of the unfortunate downsides is that on a rainy night like tonight, I have to have my shoes under the tent. Now these things have been wet for 7 days, straight twice now, they have a few hundred miles on them…and the other day I smelled them from over 10 feet away…so yeah, tonight is going to be a long nsdight…

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Only in the Johnaxy…

So Marathon Man and I were hiking in the rain and the wind was blowing pretty good and we come across this newish truck backed into a remote parking lot right on the trail. MM hikes much faster than I do and he got there first, a 65ish guy gets out and strikes up a conversation. After 5 minutes of the usual questions he goes to the passenger door and whispers something, at this point my antennae are up trying to figure out what the heck is going on. Then a 70ish year old woman gets out, we are standing about 6 feet in front of drivers headlight, he is to our left and she walks along the passenger side and stops in front if the passenger headlight.

Now, something was completely odd here but I didn’t feel unsafe or anything, just unsure. And then…he makes some comment like “she lost a bet” and while he is saying this she reaches down and starts to pull up her top, bra and all…and we got slow flashed…so she stands there for a few seconds in the rain letting her girls air out and he has this huge Cheshire cat grin on his face…obviously it’s pretty awkward and um, uncomfortable, so I looked at him and said “looks like the debt has been paid, and I’m a witness”…and with that we walked off…

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Wolfman from Helltown

PicsArt_1412121905811So there’s some clown running around up here with the above name who is stealing people’s food, leaving crazy entries in the log books and if you don’t give him what he wants, you will wake up with a note attached to your tent talking about a murdered hiker and bible verses. Yep, this dude needs to become a victim of a stand your ground law, I’ve already met quite a few people who have had run-ins with him, they were all terrified. He’s heading the same direction as me but I haven’t seen a log entry/diatribe from him in 3 days, hopefully he has been taken to a special place and people can get back to enjoying some peace up here. The image below is what someone wrote about him in a log book.

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Marathon Man and hand made ice cream

PicsArt_1412121721157The guy I have been traveling with recently goes by the name Marathon Man, yes, he was a marathon runner before starting the trail and has still managed to lose 15 pounds! We crossed the border into PA and stopped in for an ice cream. The shoppe was very much an old time place and the tables had a tag that said Tavern on the Green and then an ID number. Not sure what it meant but the brownie covered with mint chocolate chip and hot fudge was fantastic!

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Simple question led to…

So I’m doing laundry in Duncannon, PA, and needed to clip my nails which took me outside where I met this dude. For whatever reason, I asked him “so, what’s the history of this area”?

The next 45 minutes were completely fascinating. He told me about the history from the mid 1700’s where the white man lived on one side of the Susquehanna river and five Indian tribes lived on the other. His family goes back many generations in this area. He told me how when there were “disagreements”, how each side dealt with the other. It was completely brutal on both sides. The white man were farmers, the Indians hunters.

He also told me about some of the “artifacts” he has found in the area, again, pieces of history which are quite fascinating like a piece of jade that had carvings of a monkey, Sasquatchi, lizard and other animals. The archeologists he showed it to explained what it meant but before we got that far he had to go. Anyway, the point of this post was to comfirm that once again, random questions I ask strangers have led to some of my most interesting conversations!

PicsArt_1412293721739*Update. I ran into him later that night, he had a few artifacts with him, I tried out my thermal cam app, can you see the face?

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Uploading Issues

Greetings All,

Just a quick Fyi, I am having issues uploading posts. It’s hard to find WiFi on mountain tops and these small mountain towns aren’t really hubs for super fast bandwidth. All is well, in Southern PA now,  will cross into Maryland in 3-4 days. Everyone I meet on the trail says to get my butt in gear if I want to make it all the way to GA before the weather gets too bad. So putting in lots of miles and doing my best to document the journey.

Freebird

 

 

 

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Milestones galore!

Had a great day even after the 10:30 a.m. start. Crossed the NY/PA border, passed 200 mile mark and did my first 17 mile day.  I got my butt kicked hiking with Marathon Man but now I know the pace i need to hit to do 18-20 mile days…it’s fast so definitely looking forward to lightening up my pack in 2 days.

Tonight I’m at the Kirkridge Shelter which is on top of a mountain with a small area where you can enjoy a spectacular view. Unfortunately they are also installing some enormous piece of equipment on top of this mountain. My hammock is about 100 feet away from the work site. In the time it took to type this they turned the crane on and off 3 times. They are currently attaching some large pieces together because we hear the drill quite clearly, almost like we’re right there! Surprised the Foreman hasn’t come over with hard hats yet. Oh, something new, diesel fumes.  This is gonna be a great night!

Nighty nite!

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Trail Name

Everyone out here uses a trail name, some choose their name, others have theirs chosen for them. I finally chose my own trail name: Freebird. My interpretation = Free of Burdens.

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Boulder V. Man

Jason at some point wanted to show his toughness by wrestling a boulder…

Boulder 1  Jason 0

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‘Merica

wpid-20140915_131353.jpgThis is the highest point on the AT in NY. If I recall , it’s one of the landmarks you can see from the Empire State building as well. With the naked eye you could see the NY skyline,  sadly the camera didn’t pick it up.

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Ladder

wpid-20140915_105646.jpgThere’s a section where in my trail guide it just says “ladder”. Had no idea what I was in for. Turns out you are walking down a super steep boulder for about 100 yards, then, you need to toss your poles down and hold on dearly while Hou make your way to the ladder, once down the ladder you are walking over and around boulders on an almost vertical slope for another 50 feet before it becomes bearable again. This is what it looks like:

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“Lost shit, broke shit and hurt shit”

Somewhere in here is where Jason tweaked his knee. I was walking ahead and thought I’d be waiting about 30 mind for him to catch up. After 1.5 hours I figured something happened and then sure enough, he pops up over the hill limping. His knee was already swelling so naturally I called him a nancyboy and told him we needed to pick up the pace;-)

Actually we spent about another 2 hours making our way to a road where we were able to call a taxi to take us to a hostel. There was no way he could continue so he made arrangements to depart the next day. It was really great seeing a familiar face I’m the trail, and very nice to have had a few campfires where we sat around and swapped old football and war stories.

The quote above is what he said as we were walking out…kind of summed up his time on the AT.

Here’s what done him in…
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See you further down the trail…

wpid-20140916_095129.jpgAfter a night sleeping in a church basement and some breakfast we sadly had to part ways. Get well Good Sir.  Hope to see you on the trail in NC and thanks a million for the supplies and getting this blog sorted out,  couldn’t have done it without you!

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Fresh Veggies!

wpid-20140916_184653.jpgI now have a sprouting bag and seeds, so I’m “growing my own” as I make my way south. Looks scrumptuous, eh?

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Cow Magnet

wpid-20140916_145902.jpgYou can see the AT makes its way through this pasture.  For some unknown reason, one of the cows decided it really liked me and invited the others to come say hi. I felt like I was about to get stampeded so many were coming towards me to say hi. Luckily they all behaved and things were great,  an unexpected pleasant surprise.

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High Point Shelter

wpid-20140918_093339.jpgIs located on top of a mountain, there are no roads, elevators or escalators, in fact, you need to be a bit fit to make it here…so why oh why is this privy ADA compliant? Something to ponder…

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Trail Magic

wpid-20140918_150008.jpgThe world really is full of good and lovely people. I have experienced it virtually everywhere I have ever travelled. I never intended to write about water on this blog but it is such a huge issue when it’s 20 miles between water sources. On behalf of all hikers I’ve met so far, thank you to the Trail Angels. These are people who, with their own money, time and effort are leaving ice chests full of water, gallon jugs of water and I even saw someone hiked at least 5 miles to put one of those 2.5 gallon water jugs in a shelter. It is absolutely amazing what these lovely people are doing of their own volition. This particular shelter I happened to stop ag and open the log book and saw there were 3 boy scouts who hiked in these 10 gallons of water. Thank you Scouts! And huge thanks to All Trail Angels!

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Special Treatment!

wpid-20140919_114704.jpgSo my guidebook is full of places to stop that are “hiker friendly”. Usually hiker friendly means you enter through a back or side door and stay away from their other customers. This sign is from Joe’s Coffee Shop. ..kind of says it all.

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Lost my MOJO today

wpid-20140920_124945.jpgI don’t know what happened but I just couldn’t get going today. I stopped here and napped for an hour hoping for an energy boost but got nada. As you can see, lovely spot, had a strong breeze so quite conducive to some good Zzz’s.

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The essentials

wpid-20140920_153940.jpgStopped at the Appalachian Mountain Club for the night, fresh food,  soap, towel and hot water…who could ask for more?

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Hobo Camp

wpid-20140920_165201.jpg
This was the first time in a while where the weather actually helped to dry some stuff out. I was sitting on a bench looking at my stuff and realized it looked a bit like a hobo camp. At least I got to sleep under a dry bed that night!

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First Bear Sighting!

Ok, I made a video of it but it’s too difficult to post video from my location. Basically, I am at the Gren Anderson Shelter somewhere in NJ. I went about 24 hours without seeing another person and today met 6 locals out hiking. Looking back they all shared bear stories without being asked. My story is this, I wasn’t sure I was at the right shelter so I took off my pack and walked the last few hundred yards with nothing but a phone. As I am approaching shelter I see one about 100 or so yards away walking up the hill. It’s recorded and we’ll see if they come back tonight to say Hi. Woohoo, some excitement:-)

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300 Pound Award

My buddy Jason joined me on the trail a few days ago. It was very nice to see a familiar face plus…he brought some much needed supplies and his bull headed determination which is kind of what it takes to push yourself up a mountain, then down a mountain.

We each had our own hotel room the first night. To be honest, I had not had dry clothes for 7 days straight at that point and so my things were a bit…pungent is probably a good word. He was a trooper and hung out in my room for a bit but to be honest, between my shoes, pack and pole straps, there was enough stench coming off to clear a large room! Even I, after showering and shaving, could barely stand the smell. Luckily the room had its own a/c and I could crank it up to get some circulation going. It sure seems like keeping the air moving made things a bit more bearable…but based on his comments on the days after we left the hotel it was pretty awful:-)

When we made it to the trail the following morning the first section we were doing was affectionately known as Agony Grind. It was basically straight up and over boulders for hundreds of vertical feet. So a nice easy intro to the AT for his first climb. We made it to the top, his starting weight (body and pack) was a skosh over 300 lbs. I was closer to 250 (I slipped a couple of liters of water in his pack when he wasn’t looking, it was easier than carrying it myself:-) I find it easier to hike uphill using small steps but he powered his way up the hill using full strides, impressive!

Anyways, we made it to the top (did I forget to mention it, was also raining?), and here’s the proof:20140913_114843

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Onesy in the woods

Ok, apparently I am a magnet for whatever freak show is going on up here because today…I am hiking along, not using my poles so pretty quiet and come over this hill and at the bottom I see an older dude wearing a royal blue Onesy…I didn’t see any numbering on the back but he did have on those super thick glasses with the huge squarish frame. Anyways, I could tell I startled him because he couldn’t figure out what to do, he started to walk, went in a circle, then walked, paused, finally decided to walk in the same direction as me. I caught up to him in a few minutes not really wanting to start a conversation but hey, I always learn something new every time I meet someone so decided to just go along with it.

He starts with the usual “where you headed” and is walking and talking with me, the terrain was slightly uphill with no rocks so I was moving at a pretty good clip, not wanting to spend too much time with this dude. Anyways, he is a local and was up there scouting for old “underground homes”. Yeah, I was thinking a quiet place to take his victims as well. He shares some stories as we walked and as we parted he showed me the entrance to one…yep, they are real! I double timed it away from creepyboy…and am now resting comfortably above ground in my hammock…but, I have a feeling I’m going to see him on the news in the future…

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Even if the ice cream was awful look at the view!

20140914_155950There is almost no water on the AT in this area right now, luckily there are loads of Trail Angels (I’ll address this more thoroughly in a later post). Apparently, there is a couple who the trail guide describes as “hiker friendly ice cream shop owners” who have a faucet outside their business that hikers may use at anytime to get water. We were basically out of water between us so Jason took a rest with the packs and I decided to go get water and if possible, was going to work in a quick wash as well. I meandered down the path, crested a hill and this is what I saw…what is not in the photo is the line of cars waiting to get into the parking lot…and, BTW, we met a local photojournalist right after collecting water who told us the cows that produce the milk that makes the ice cream are in the pasture at the bottom of the valley…so you can eat, what we heard, was fantastic ice cream and take in this gorgeous view and give thanks to the cows at the same time!

Oh, in case you were wondering, I opted not to bathe in front of a few hundred people…although I’m sure it would have made great dinner table conversation for many families if I had:-)

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Boulder Field

20140914_150248There are certain sections where you are hopping from boulder to boulder for hundreds of feet straight. It’s usually steep so I prefer going up rather than down(prefer doesn’t mean choice!) Here’s a small sample of the terrain…and the reason why one misstep could cost you plenty…

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Rock Climbing in NY

20140914_144838Everyday the trail throws a new challenge at you. On this particular sunny day we experienced our first rock climbing session. He is actually going down that rock face…backwards was definitely the safest way…we spent this day and the next walking along a ridge line going up and over boulders, it was hard to make any distance since the majority of time was spent tossing our poles downhill, climbing down, picking up our poles them doing it again 20 feet later…brutal on the body (we have the scrapes to prove it!).

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Wilson’s Debut

20140914_140952I will occasionally be writing about this adventure from the point of view of my travelling companion, Wilson. Here’s his first photo with the name if his Creator.

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Fire

20140913_172826My first 10 days on the trail the weather was mainly hot and sticky. ..that, plus the fact that I was completely exhausted meant I never made a fire. Having a second pair of hands around makes lots of tasks easier so we decided to light a fire in the rain. It took a while to get it going but after a few hours the rain stopped and it was nice to feel the warmth while we were drying out our clothes over the fire. When you are alone in the woods with someone you tend to learn some interesting things…apparently, Jason is part of a new-age religion that likes to sacrifice new socks over a fire…Here he is at the beginning of the ceremony making preparations:

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New York City

20140911_112302Apparently, on a clear day you can see NYC from three different mountaintops…unfortunately, the day I crossed those 3 were overcast…so instead of a long distance view of NYC picture, I bring you instead this picture of a sign about NYC…almost the same;-)

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First 100 Miles Completed!

20140911_151900Yesterday I hit the 100 mile mark, took me 10 days but nice to hit this first milestone. I was a bit disappointed at the size of the ticker tape parade going across the bridge…ah well, maybe mile 1,000 is where the Swedish Bikini Team shows up with a cigar and champagne…

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Old Iron Mine

20140912_104121I ran across a dude in the woods this morning, apparently a bit of a geology buff. He told me he was looking at old iron mines and the hills were filled with them…I turned around and yep, old iron mine!

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So I got a ride from a paedophile today…

I am meeting my buddy in Harriman, NY tonight so needed to get into town. Its about 4 miles on a highway if you walk in the right direction, 8 miles if you walk in the wrong direction and dont realize it until you read the city limit sign. 

In NY hitchhiking is illegal, at least thats what my trail guide says. So I was about 1 mile away from town on a narrow highway, at this point I stopped even trying to catch a ride and was resigned to walking all the way in when an old tan Oldsmobile Cutlass stops right next to me, it was a fat old white dude and the windows were down so I hopped in. Here’s our conversation as best as I can recall:

FWD (fat white dude): Where you headed?

Me: Harriman

FWD: How far have you walked today?

ME: About 11 miles.

FWD: Do you walk that far everyday?

ME: No sir, I am hiking the Appalachian Trail, been on it for about ten days, walking 10-15 miles per day.

FWD: Wow, that’s a lot of exercise, your legs must be strong.

ME: Well sir, I am not quite in “trail shape” yet, but yes, I imagine my legs will get pretty strong.

FWD: Can I feel them?

ME: Um…I’d rather you didnt…

Luckily the hotel was visible around the next corner and he let me out without even grabbing my ass…

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Lemon Squeezer

20140912_112652This formation is famous along the trail, its literally only 100 yards long but there are 3 sections that are absolutely brutal to get over/under/through. This is the middle part, I was going down it, y’all know I’m not a tiny dude…so I had to put my poles aside, take off my pack, and carry it above my head to get through, what you may not see is that not only are there places in that wedge where you have to step down, but the ground is on an angle as well. My elbows got cut open, my sides got bruised getting smashed againat the walls while trying to maintain balance and my hips took a few good shots as well…very happy to be through it, the scars will make it a memorable experience!

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Nuclear Lake (newklr if you are a George W fan)

20140907_122837So there are a few lakes not too far away from the trail which make fine bathing and cool down spots…I met a guy named Grasshopper who highly recommended that i stop and swim here despite the pesky rumors the gubmnt used to dump stuff in here…and I will admit, he did a very good job selling me on the idea of stopping and swimming…until later, when i was thinking about him i realized he was bald, no chest hair and no arm hair…didnt check out his legs but i had some nagging doubts as to how “fine” the water really was and passed on the swim.

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First Waterfall

20140909_154125Water is pretty scarce on the trail but saw this a few days ago traipsing through the woods…if it would have been later in the day it would have made for a very memorable campsite…

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Crossing the Hudson

20140910_151324I dont know what bridge this is but there were loads of “dont jump” signs all over the place…and a handy dandy phone (yeah, i thought it would have been funny too if i called and said bring me a pizza and i wont jump”…

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Lowest point on trail

20140910_154605Part of the trail winds through some zoo here in NY, I dont know the name but in front of the bear cage is supposedly the lowest point on the entire Appalachian Trail…after seeing these two beautiful animals bored out of their skulls i would have to agree…

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Would you?

20140910_135828In about 9 hours of hiking today i came across 1 stream that was more than a mile from where i started this morning…this is what it looked like…would you drink from it? And i met a guy who just hiked north from the NY/NJ border…he said all water sources have dried up…so for the next few hundred miles, all the way through PA i will have to not only fill my belly at every source, but carry water with me. I have 6 liters on me now, my bag is well over 40lbs at this point…good thing i spent all that time in the gym these last few 

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Trail Food…

When I first learned about the Appalachian Trail one of the “memorable” stops was a shelter where you could have a pizza delivered. Well, today was that day! Its called the RPH Shelter and I ordered a chef salad and a dozen chicken wings…couldnt pass up the chance to eat something green!

As I was waiting for my order to be delivered a fellow hiker shows up, we strike up a conversation and wow, a kindred spirit. He is only the second fellow traveller I’ve ever met who somehow always ends up with these amazing travel experiences.

I asked him the question as to why these amazing things happen to him and he said when he travels he has a policy to never say no. He also said he was always open to new experiences which is the same conclusion the first fellow traveller and i came to.

Yes, those of you that have heard my story of straddling the village policeman will know that sometimes i have ended up in compromising positions but overall, i now believe my willingness to try and do almost anything has led to some of the fantastic and at times, bizarre experiences…mopani worm anyone?

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Pawling, NY Day 5

So the last few days have been super hot and humid, apparently the hottest week all year! So my butt is getting completely kicked, i drink at least 6 liters while hiking, another 1-2 @ camp and one before i leave in the morning. At some point my body will get used to this and im pretty sure my liver is doing a happy dance as well. Besides 6 blister locations and sore muscles all is well.

I have been averaging about 10 miles a day, which is better than i had hoped but i am still nowhere near “trail fit” as i learned this morning when a kid i met hiked 53 mikes the day before, which is the entire length of the trail in CT. Yep, i was impressed!

In terms of wildlife, i have seen a few chipmunks, caught a raccoon bathing this morning, saw 2 female whitetail deer, 1 snake about 5 inches long and a black 4 footer snake i still haven’t identified. I have heard owls almost every night and usually at some point i will hear Canadian Geese flying overhead. So some cool things so far…oh, forgot, lots of frogs and toads, haven’t seen any worth BBQ’ing yet but I’m hopeful.

I arrived in Pawling NY, around 3, just as a black cloud was coming over the mountain. There is a train station here that goes direct to Manhattan which is kind of cool, also explains why i met so many folks from the city just coming out to spend tonight (one 30ish woman was wearing perfect bright red lipstick). The train station is also a nursery and…they offer a bit of respite for hikers, free shower outside, free water (big deal since we have to filter everything) and the best part, they converted the restroom inside the building to a full bath. So i had a shower today ($5 but so worth it).

I then walked down the highway (sans pack!) to Tony’s deli, a bit of a local hotspot based on what i saw. Had a proper sandwich, restocked a few supplies and then walked back in the heat and humidity (it rained for about 30 seconds earlier).

The woman who was working here at the nursery was very kind and has allowed me to hang out in their garden, charge my phone and they have a little place in the back where i can hang my hammock tonight. I am really really hoping these black clouds that just rolled in take the humidity away and cool the place down…if only i knew a rain dance!

I haven’t checked tomorrows route yet but i saw something coming up called bear mountain and it looks like it is gonna be a tough climb…one of the things about the landscape here is there are tons of granite and quartz boulders everywhere, having to scamper up and down these “boulder fields” is a bit of a challenge but cool to look back and see what you’ve just accomplished.

So while i was getting undressed to take a shower i just wanted to see how many skeeter bites i had on my shoulders…wow was i surprised…i have at least 100 just on my butt! That will teach me not to remove my under-quilt, no matter how warm it gets inside!

Finally, i took a selfie while sitting in the garden…wow, it is stunning how much my father looks like me!

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Former California State Hiking Champion

Former California State Hiking Champion

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My Setup

20140904_181839This is what my setup typically looks like at night, behind the hammock is where I keep the a/c unit for hot/humid nights.

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Rare View

Stopped here to take care of the feet…just lovely! rare view

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Easy day…

After getting my butt kicked for 2 days i got to walk along a river for 10 miles…so much easier than that mountain in the distance.

Also stopped in the lovely town of Kent, CT, to dump some gear, enjoy Mexican food and get more bug spray…so far so good!
easy_day

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Proper bath!

Just had a nice refreshing bath in this lovely river. Smelling pretty ok…time to make some

river-bath

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Traveling companion

My friend Graemlin was kind enough to send me off with a traveling companion…he was too heavy to carry so another friend made a digital version which i have made my screensaver for those lonely nights!

wilson-blk
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First Impressions

I have spent 2 days walking the trail so far, about 18 miles in total. On this second night, once again there is a group of freshman from Princeton in camp…apparently, all freshmen are required to spend 6 days on the Appalchian Trail before going to class. They have been doing this for over 40 years…its a great tradition in my opinion!

So besides the Princeton group, every hiker i have run across is, gulp, older than me! I am shocked to be honest…but nice to see so many seasoned citizens out here!

My body is obviously hurting but besides a few blisters, all is well. Connecticut happens to be a state that doesn’t allow fires…so my little stove that uses twigs is illegal…so haven’t had a hot meal yet…luckily i stocked up on snickers!

The biggest lesson i have learned so far is just because the gear is “cool”, i don’t need to carry it. My pack weight started at 23 lbs, with food and water that’s over 30 lbs which is too much climbing up/down boulders, crossing streams etc. So i am going into a town tomorrow to lighten my load a bit (and to restock my snickers supply!)

I took my first stream bath today, yes, that mountain water is very crisp, especially when you are only in the shade. Tomorrow apparently i walk next to a proper river for a while, will use that time to clean the pits again and perhaps even a sock or two!

So far, so good as they say. No real surprises, just happy to be out in nature again (there is an owl nearby talking). Oh, no, haven’t seen a bear yet but have seen scat a few times…so they are around:-)

No pics yet…i have been sweating too much and my phone doesn’t apparently work too well with sweat dripping all over the

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The Journey Begins…

My sister is driving me to the trailhead this afternoon to begin my journey. I feel quite underprepared but I suspect this is normal. I don’t plan on making many miles today, just plan on getting myself situated and make today an easy day, the real walking begins tomorrow.

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