CT – Day 1, July 25th

Miles from Denver: 19.3

Miles to Durango: 466.7

It’s been just over two years since I’ve walked with a pack on my back. A lot has changed in our world. A lot is still changing. Yet, the trail has been there and the trail will always be there. This time the “trail” becomes the Colorado Trail – the first trail I’ve attempted to thru-hike since completing the Appalachian Trail.

In very real ways, trails are all the same. Paths, walkways, corridors – one foot in front of the other. A view to your left or right. A passable surface beneath you.

I can’t tell you yet how the Colorado Trail will be different. I can tell you that I’m a different person than I was two years ago. It’ll take me a little bit of walking to unpack all those changes.

Thank you for following along – this is my Day 1. There will be plenty more musings and ramblings to come.

Gotta start somewhere! The CT begins at Waterton Canyon just outside of Denver. Special shout-out to my friend Emily for taking care of Haley and I!

Not wearing a Cubs hat? In my fight to defeat the devilish god, Sun, I have pulled a different type of armor. A wide-brimmed leather hat may be the coolest impractical trail gear I’ve worn. At first I was worried about how I looked – my ears are thankful that I overcame those reservations.

First blaze in the wild! Despite being a really neat logo it is far less identifiable than a pure white 2×6 white blaze. I promise to not get lost.

I can’t remember the perspective of this photo, but I assume it’s about 10-12 miles into the trail. This was the first “view” I saw!

This is the landscape in ‘recovery’ mode. The Buffalo Creek fire in 1996 tore through this area. There was no shade to be had – the burned carcasses of trees sat scattered throughout the terrain. Perpetual reminders, at least for now.

Night one was spent on a rocky outcropping that jutted out from a ridge line. I camped with two new trail friends – CP and Winging It. It was a relaxing night after an energetic start – it felt great to be back on trail!

Hiking the Colorado Trail!

Today, I’m leaving on another long-distance thru-hike – this time it’s the Colorado Trail. A 486-mile southbound trek through the Rocky Mountains that starts just outside of Denver and ends in Durango, CO.


It’s my first time back on trail since completing the Appalachian Trail at Mt. Katahdin in July of 2019. A lot has changed since then. A lot will change further. But for now my life is back to being guided by a trail. And damn, I’m excited!


I’m not worried, but I am nervous. I’m mentally prepared, but not perfect physically. I’m motivated, but not unrealistic. This may be the last long-distance trail I’ll hike for awhile. I’m determined to enjoy this one. Enjoy the hell out of it.


If I make it all the way to Durango my feet will be hurt and my heart will be full. But if I don’t, well – the same will be true. Every moment I’m here in Colorado will be lived with a reminder of the past and a nod to the future. Trails have already given me a life’s worth of experiences, so has the life we’ve all lived since I finished the AT. It’s been weird, it’s been hard, it’s been real. I’m ready to have some fun and relax. If you get anything from my words and my walk I hope it’s a kick in the butt to get outside and do something crazy.


Follow along as I walk. I’m going to post as often as I want, when I want. Blogs may not look like they did on the AT. I give two promises – I’ll be honest and I’ll let you know I’m alive. The trail will provide everything else. Thank you for being a part of this journey. If there’s something you want to ask or hear about, let me know, I’ll write about it.

Appalachian Trail COMPLETE

Today, I completed my 2019 Northbound Thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail. After walking 2192 miles over a span of 138 days from March 3rd to July 18, I summited Mt. Katahdin, the northern terminus, at about noon. My journey started at Springer Mountain in Georgia, in four and a half months I’ve walked through 14 states, various national parks and forests, and elevations ranging from 177 feet to 6,658 feet. I’ve met people from Germany, Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands, Ecuador, Ireland, England, Switzerland, many states of the USA, and some fellow Hoosiers. I’ve lost over 30 pounds, my starting weight was 210 and I now weigh 175. I’ve been bitten countless times by various bugs, became violently ill in Connecticut, been cut numerous times, had limp-causing blisters, and so many times the trail mentally beat me down. I was on the edge of quitting.

This dream of mine started about five years ago when a buddy and I first stepped foot on the trail outside of Harpers Ferry, WV. Since then I’ve spent four years in the Navy, but that whole time the idea of thru-hiking the trail festered in my mind. It dangled in front of my grasp; all I could do was dream, save up money, research, and plan. So I did. I realize now that even after five years of preparation I had no idea what the hell I was getting myself into. No amount of reading, video-watching, gear research, or day-hiking could ever truly prepare me for the full experience of hiking the Appalachian Trail. Chock it up to inexperience, ignorance, naïveté, or what-you-will, but to me it’s all wrong – there are no words or stories I could tell that would completely convey my experience. Before my hike I didn’t know that it only took a few hours on trail to realize that almost all of the last five years of preparation was all a wash. The only way to understand this trail is to walk it.

The Appalachian Trail was here long before me and will be here long after I die. A popular saying on trail is “the trail will always be there”. Next year, I bet there will be another “Yukon” that will try to finish and I hope they do. I don’t know if I’ll ever step foot on the AT again, I don’t know if I’ll attempt to hike another National Scenic Trail, I don’t know what I don’t know. What I do know is the trail will always be there, whether it’s in my mind, in my heart, or under my feet.

I’ve kept this blog clean to appease most readers, but I’m going to take a break from that to convey some of the truer parts of my hike: thru-hiking the AT fucking sucked and was collectively the hardest endeavor I’ve undertaken in my life. Sometimes I was a shit show: crying, throwing my trekking poles, screaming curse words into the wind, and begging the universe to injure me so I would have an excuse to go home. The portion of trail from Harpers Ferry to Vermont left me hating myself and the trail. I wanted to quit almost every day – I would google Amtrak prices home, flight schedules, and while walking I would think about calling my parents and asking them to send money so I could buy a bus ticket home. Every day I would call Haley cursing myself and the trail, constantly coniving a way to go home just so I could see her, but deep-down knowing I would stay for good once I got there. I wanted to go home, yet she was strong and would talk me out of it.

I stayed the course and stuck with it, I didn’t listen to the voices in my head telling me to quit. For the rest of my life I will be able to say I’m a thru-hiker. I’ve earned the Appalachian Trail insignia tattoo I’ll eventually get. I will always have this and I’m even going to make sure it goes in my obituary.

It may not seem so, but in total, the trail was one of the best experiences of my life so far. If past thru-hikers testimonials are true, then it may be one of the best experiences I will ever have in this life. Most times it didn’t feel like it, but now, after I finish, after I recollect on all the arduous pain and shit I’ve gone through, I know one thing to be absolute – it was worth it. Every damn second, it was worth it. I haven’t given the trail enough credit, it took the best and worst out of me, it beat and pounded me into submission, it sucked everything from me. Through all that it’s taken, it’s also given me everything I’ll ever need.

I owe this hike to everyone in my life who led me to the trail, in a way they are the white blazes that guided me to the AT. Haley, my parents, Alec and Lily, my extended family, all my great friends, my old shipmates, anyone who shared my blog, THANK YOU. You all hiked the trail with me, you were there through the trials and triumphs. Thank you to those who supported me financially during my hike, the funds you all gave me went towards food resupplies or hostel stays, your dollars were the tangible support that carried me on trail.

I stuck to the path, I put one foot in front of the other. I made it.

Day 133-135, July 13th-15th

Miles from Springer Mountain: 2161.9

Miles to Mount Katahdin: 30.1

It’s been a whirlwind of emotion during my time in the Hundred Mile Wilderness. Every so often a southbounder will congratulate me on my accomplishment, the signs post fewer and fewer miles to Katahdin, I’m now on the second to last page of my guidebook, and I can tell my time on trail is dwindling as my food bag gets lighter and lighter. I’m enjoying this last major step, it hasn’t been as easy as I anticipated, but it’s been the most beautiful reward I could earn after walking so far.

I woke up early on the 13th ready to conquer! I was gonna fly over the Chairbacks and get as close to White Cap Mountain to set myself up well for the next day. I woke up early, made my breakfast, and began to pack up, I don’t know what I was doing but I laid my head down for a second only to wake up two hours later. My morning was ruined! My plan to make saturday a big mileage day turned into a day dragging my body uphill and downhill, slapping at bugs, and cursing myself for falling asleep. Thankfully, despite beating myself up, the trail was still there and I carried myself as far as I could. I ended up in a beautiful tent spot next to a river, although I didn’t get to enjoy the view – the mosquitoes weren’t worth it.

I was in better headspace the next morning, consequentially my body felt better after doing low miles the day before. Ahead lay White Cap Mountain, the last large mountain before Katahdin. It was damp, lightly raining; the bugs were held at bay in the morning. All the work to summit White Cap and I didn’t even get to take a good picture of Katahdin! The best part of getting over this last ridge is the endless, flat valley that follows it – the next 65 miles are only interrupted with 3-4 mountains that more resemble bumps in the earth. The early morning climb had warmed up my muscles, I flew over the flat ground until my legs hurt enough to tell me to quit. My first 25+ mile day in what feels like ages, but in reality about a month.

The 15th felt great right from the start, the only thing separating me from Katahdin was about 56 miles, and no bugs were going to hurt my mental headspace. The day consisted of an overall incline of less than 1500 feet, an extremely flat day! I flew through the terrain, only interrupted by ruts and roots that hurt the bottom of my feet. As the day wore on the bugs began to be a real bother, I ran out of DEET a few days back, but by now I’ve become a skilled swatter. I made it all the way to the Rainbow Stream Lean-to, the 3rd to last shelter on the AT. I set up my tent to take refuge from the bugs and relaxed for the night, only 30 miles from Katahdin.

The HMW is almost over and with it the entire Appalachian Trail, I feel as if it’s almost the last sip of a fine wine – I’ve enjoyed the glass as a whole, but I’m ready to move onto the next bottle. Only a few miles left, I’ll take a sip of that wine and give a toast to Mt. Katahdin, my last step to conquer the Appalachian Trail.

Day 130-132, July 10-12th

Miles from Springer Mountain: 2093.7

Miles to Mount Katahdin: 98.3

I’ve entered the Hundred Mile Wilderness and now officially have less than 100 miles left to hike on the Appalachian Trail! When I look at a map or a calendar, it is difficult to fathom the magnitude of what I’ve been working towards over the last few months – that this accomplishment is real and is less than a week away. It started to sink in this morning as the hostel owner dropped some other Nobos and I at the trailhead, I got emotional as she took a minute to congratulate us; she impressed upon me the reality that completing the Appalachian Trail is just one more short walk.

I woke up in my tent on the morning of the 10th and relaxed, I took the morning easily. My goal for the day was to set myself up well for an easy walk into Monson, ME the next day. Only one mountain lay ahead: Moxie Bald Mountain, there’s been many moons that have passed over my tent since the last day I only had to ascend one mountain. The trail after Moxie flattened out, but required the fording of two rivers – now I usually don’t even bother to take off my shoes, relegating my feet to a destitute life of dampness. I made it to the Horseshoe Canyon Ridge Lean-to, I had intended to hike further, but I could feel my body telling me to stop so I listened.

Although I didn’t hike as far as I intended the trail towards ME 15 was mostly downhill or flat, trail miles on Nero days always fly by- my mind is on getting to town! So the 11th I set off early and met the shuttle to stay at Shaw’s Hiker Hostel in Monson, ME. Monson is the last trail town on the AT, the final stop before the Hundred Mile Wilderness and Baxter State Park. I picked up my very last resupply, bought a new pair of shoes, ate way too much food, and relaxed with trail friends.

Shaw’s is one of the more famous hostels on trail, it’s the end for Northbounders and the first for southbounders. Monson itself is a fanciful town with few amenities, but nice taste – perfect for hikers who either just left civilization or are ready to reenter it. I enjoyed my time there, but with one week left I could feel Katahdin looming and never did truly rest.

The hostel provided a huge breakfast that was anchored by the endless Maine blueberry pancakes, I’ll make the call and say that this was my best breakfast on trail (Elmer’s in Hot Springs, NC is a close second). I took a shuttle back to the trail, entering the famous Hundred Mile Wilderness – a true wilderness only interrupted by old unkept mining and logging roads. The HMW is the last hurdle before Katahdin, a ceremonial passage for northbounders and an introduction to trail life for southbounders.

After an overnight rain the forest was damp and roots were slick, my new shoes took some adjusting to, but I was able to put in some good miles on a shorter day. I crossed the one hundred mile mark of the trail – it was odd to see it written facing north for Sobos to see. I understood that reaching 100 miles is powerful to any hiker, whether you’ve got 100 left or you just hiked 100 miles further than you thought you could. Tomorrow I’ll be able to conquer the Chairbacks and get close to White Cap Mountain, the last peak before Mt. Katahdin. It’s raining tonight, but the weather looks favorable for big days until the finish!

The final countdown is here! Officially less than one week before I complete my 2019 Northbound Thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail! Thank you for following along on my journey, the end is in sight.

Day 127-129, July 7th-9th

Miles from Springer Mountain: 2049.0

Miles to Mount Katahdin: 143.0

I’m under 150 miles! The last 3 days have been a large transition period in the Maine section of my Appalachian Trail hike. ME is considered one of the toughest states on the AT- the elevation change can be drastic, towns can be few and far in between, roots and ruts become more abundant, weather can be erratic, and the bugs are relentless. This portion has consisted of a large shift from high altitude and some serious ascents to mainly flatland and the “pine needle highway”.

On the 7th I conquered the Bigelows! From the top of Bigelow Mountain I could see in the distance both Mt. Washington and Mt. Katahdin – it was a day of perfect visibility, conditions were just right. I made it to the Little Bigelow Lean-to where I was joined by some friends: Scoutmaster, Scepter, Sneaks, Fireball, and Lumpy – we all relaxed, hung out around the fire as we ate dinner, and reminisced on how far we had walked. It was a great ending to my day, Crossing the Bigelows only leaves about 2 or 3 major ridges until Mt. Katahdin!

Sometimes I can tell if it’s going to be a good day just by looking at the altitude maps – the 8th was going to be a good day. These parts of the trail move from “pond to pond” (Maine ponds are Indiana lakes), they were crafted that way ages ago when the waterways were the primary form of transportation, Benedict Arnold even led a small army over what’s now the AT. The “Pine Needle Highway” is mile after mile of flatland trail carved out amongst the Pine trees, the roots are abundant, but it’s smooth and easy walking.

I made it that night to the Pierce Pond Lean-to, about .3 miles away was Harrison’s Pierce Pond Camps, some friends were relaxing there so I headed over to meet them. The owner was working with all of his retired friends on building a new bridge, so he let us hikers relax in the lodge with some cold lemonade. There was three of us there, after the locals finished work they sat and talked with us about Maine and the trail. We even got some trail magic! Trail magic in Maine tends to be green, grown from the earth, and illegal in Indiana.

Only a short jut away from the Pond was the famous Kennebec River Ferry! I woke up early on the 9th to reach the ferry as soon as it opened, I was rewarded by being the first ride. The ferry is only a small canoe operated by volunteers, but it’s a necessary part of the trail. The Kennebec River is about half a football field wide and is unfordable, the dam upstream operates on an irregular schedule and workers will change water-flow without warning. A hiker died last year by not heeding the warnings, drowning as a result.

The ferry dropped me off on the other side, about .3 miles from Caratunk, ME. I stopped in at the Caratunk Bed and Breakfast to relax, resupply for two days, and have one of their trail famous milkshakes. They have a milkshake blender from the 50’s and it made a mighty good milkshake, I had two! I hung about for a few hours, talking with hiker friends and relaxing, I left in the early afternoon and set out towards Pleasant Pond Mountain. I made it up and over, getting my tent set up only 30 minutes before sunset.

After 2000+ miles Maine has finally rewarded me with some flat miles to relax and enjoy myself. There are still a few more rough patches and the glorious Mt. Katahdin to conquer, but I’m going to enjoy these last few days on trail. The trail will always be here, I won’t, now is my time to enjoy it.

Day 124-126, July 4th-6th

Miles from Springer Mountain: 2005.6

Miles to Mount Katahdin: 186.4

Happy Birthday, America! My 4th of July was one for the books, a good ole trail tail, if you will. I spent the day at Rangeley, ME – a town directly between the equator and the north pole, and the Hiker Hut Hostel – a nature-oriented hostel with limited amenities, but a holistic getaway nonetheless. I arrived earlier, emerging from the buggy wilderness around 9. The shower was outdoors, tucked away towards a river with almost full exposure to the outdoors, privacy was preserved with a couple makeshift walls. I threw my clothes in what I thought was the laundry bag, then headed into Rangeley to relax.

The hostel had no cell service or wifi, the only electricity was hand-held solar chargers and solar lights. While in town I recharged what I could, relaxed, drank a few beers, watched the hot dog eating contest, and resupplied. This resupply is the second to last resupply on trail!

We all made it back to the hostel, later that night when the clean laundry was delivered mine was nowhere to be found. It wasn’t in the clean laundry bag, in any other bags, not in my pack or the bunkhouse, the trash was searched to no avail; my laundry was gone, plummeted into the terrifying depths of Appalachian Trail hell. Theories abound, maybe I put it in the wrong bag, that bag may belong to another hiker who accidentally hiked it out, maybe another hiker took it maliciously, maybe the hostel owner will find them randomly in the next couple days. Regardless I’m left with 220 miles left and half my clothes missing! I lost my hiking shorts, hiking shirt, one pair of hiking socks, my camp shirt, camp towel, camp socks, and my knit cap – all inexpensive and overall worthless things, but it would have been nice to finish with the things I started, especially because I could use them all after. The hostel owner graciously gave me a shirt and shorts to hike in, it may be a cotton shirt and swim trunks, but at least I’ve got clothes to hike in!

Before the trail I would have been mentally destroyed by losing half my clothes, hell even 3 weeks ago I might have used it as an excuse to purchase an Amtrak ticket home (the line from DC stops in Elkhart, I’ve checked multiple times). Now, with two weeks left on the trail it doesn’t matter to me, I was a little sentimental about the Cubs camp shirt, but I’m so close to finishing my goal that even losing gear won’t deter me. We ended the 4th around the campfire, all 7 of us, drinking wine, beer, and champagne, someone even bought sparklers!

I set off on the 5th ready to conquer the Saddlebacks, the first of 3 remaining major ridges on the AT! It was a tough day, but I was hiking with plenty of friends – Fireball, Lumpy, Flickertail, and Scepter. It was a tough passage, water was scarce and the sun beat down hard, it may have been my hottest day on trail. Some of us stopped to swim in a small river about a mile before the tentsite, the Maine portion of the trail is popular for its abundance of swimming holes, ponds, and lakes.

The 6th was the next set of ridges – including Sugarloaf Mountain and the Crocker Mountains. It was raining, but that didn’t stop me from crossing the 2000 mile mark, I have less than 200 miles left!! I finished my day at the Cranberry Stream Campsite, my body ached, but mentally I was relieved. Not many people on this earth can call themselves a 2000-miler, I’m proud to be one of them!

As I descend deeper into the wilderness I have less and less connectivity, I apologize if my blogs vary in the next few days! Thanks for following along!

Day 120-123, June 30-July 3rd

Miles from Springer Mountain: 1971.6

Miles to Mount Katahdin: 220.4

Thinking Maine would be easy can go in the books as one of my biggest underestimations on the Appalachian Trail. I’ve been completely getting my butt kicked over the last few days and my body has taken a beating. My knees constantly ache, my joints keep popping, my toes remain swollen all day long, my appetite is insatiable, and my pace has slowed tremendously. I understand that all those things that may be expected after living in the woods and hiking for four months, but my bodies lack of positive response over the last week has been unprecedented. My pace has slowed, but thankfully I’d already had built in extra time before my summit date of July 18th, so I’m still in shape to finish just as long as I don’t halt from here on out. That said, I’m mentally and emotionally stronger than ever, I just wish my body would catch up!

I left my beautiful shelter spot at Gentian Pond in a spatter of rain, ahead lay what is considered the toughest mile on the AT – the Mahoosuc Notch, a mile long stretch of bouldering and crawling that can take up to 3 hours on the worst of days. To put that into perspective, my normal pace is 2.5 miles an hour, I completed the mile long stretch of the Notch in an hour and 45 minutes. Before reaching the notched I crossed the border into Maine, I’m now in my final state! It was pouring rain, the slightly melted snow had iced over the night before, another problem thrown into the mix. At one point I lay flat on my stomach on a wet rock face, tucked under a massive boulder, I wondered what the hell I was doing there – even after 1900+ miles I still question myself! After the Notch I called it quit and rested in my tent, it wasn’t a long day, but it was a rough one.

I woke up to dryer weather on the 1st, sore and dry is a heck of a lot better than sore and soaked. On top of the Baldpate peaks I got my last look at the peaks of the Whites, as I head north I can officially kiss them goodbye, now only about 3 major ridgelines stand between Katahdin and I. Of course my pace is slow, but being this close to the end I’m able to breathe and not worry about mileage as much. It still sits in the back of my mind, the looming thought of accomplish x amount of miles, but more so now I can focus on enjoying the trail.

The 2nd was a rough day on the legs, at lunch I sat at a lean-to for about two hours just snacking, thinking of ways to get where I needed without using my legs – almost impossible in life and on the AT, what a shocker. There were some rough inclines, steep ascents with rocky ledges and rutted paths. Two things are to a benefit on rough, steep trails – a lot of the trail clubs have bolted metal or wooden aids to assist in the climb, and sometimes sweat acts as a natural bug trap, the black flies and mosquitoes can’t constantly follow you if they die entrapped in sweat. I know it’s gross, but it’s better than eating them. I stealth camped at the base of Old Blue Mountain, ready for a big day on the 3rd.

My body has taken a beating, with the positive of more time to complete less miles I have been able to stay at more hostels. Getting to and planning a stay at a hostel is a game in and of itself – on the 3rd I needed to do a 20-mile day to have a breezy walk into a hostel on the 4th. With my slowed pace this meant a later day of walking, but it doesn’t bother me, the cool temperature of evening hiking is a relaxing break from the beating sun. I arrived at the Little Swift River Pond camp site about 30 minutes before sunset. After a long, hard day of walking I prayed to the Trail Gods that there would be a group of loud, screaming high school girls camping at the same spot, for once they answered my prayers. (I’ve hiked with some bad eggs on this trail, I wouldn’t wish that upon my worst trail enemy.)

In reality they weren’t too terribly loud, I’m not positive about that because I just put my headphones in and turned them up louder. After a long day I relaxed, ready for an easy day when I woke up.

The trail has beaten me up the last four days, she is getting in her final shots as my time winds down. Everything is starting to come together, Katahdin plans are being set, and I’m starting to mentally prepare for life off the trail. As hard as it has been, as bad as most of my experience has been, as much of a let-down thru-hiking the AT has been, I really will miss this and I know I’ll come to enjoy my experience. For the next two weeks I’m taking a personal pledge to relax, enjoy my time, and savor what the trail has to offer in its final miles.

Thanks for following along!

Day 117-119, June 27-29

Miles from Springer Mountain: 1905.5

Miles to Mount Katahdin: 286.5

I conquered the White Mountain National Forest, I’ve passed the 1900 mile mark, and I’ve got less than 300 miles to go! I’m not in Maine yet, but the weight of completing the Appalachian Trail is growing heavier on my shoulders every day. For so long finishing felt so far away, now with each passing day I’m realizing how close to the finish I actually am. I heard about the troubles of the Whites from the day I started dreaming about the trail until the day I stepped foot in it, now I can say I made it past one of the toughest hurdles of becoming an AT thru-hiker!

I woke up the sorest I’ve ever been on the 27th, I begged my knees to bend – I had to eat my breakfast laying down, I couldn’t sit up long enough without aching. I massaged my legs, I agonized knowing I needed to pack up and move onward. After summiting Mt. Washington I still had one final hurdle, Wildcat Ridge. I lumbered towards Pinkham Notch to snack on some ice cream before ascending the first peak of the ridge. A pint of Ben and Jerry’s is enough to move my broken muscles.

The Wildcats were astounding, at every view on the ridge line I could see the Presidentials and Mt. Washington in all its glory – a supreme sense of pride rushed over me as I realized what I had climbed the previous day. I didn’t let the feeling last long, I had more miles to walk. It was a day of steep inclines and declines, sometimes the downhills are the most terrifying. One misstep is almost always at least a 10 foot fall down a slick rock, just that would be lucky. My pace was slow and I was in pain, but I made it to the Imp Shelter for another beautiful sunset – my last in the Whites.

The next day I woke up early to bust out the last 8 miles of the Whites, heading towards the Rattle River Hostel. The trail wasn’t the roughest, but any time I opened my mouth to breath I almost certainly swallowed a bug. Not a recommended source of protein. I made it to the hostel before 10 and began my day of relaxation. I haven’t stayed at many hostels, but this one may have been my favorite. The people make it all worth it, the conversation, the amenities, and my friend Flickertail made cookies too! I resupplied, ate some BBQ, and relaxed. At the hostel a group of Amish guys from Lancaster County helped the owner do some yard work, he was amazed at how much stuff the Dutch Mafia could accomplish in a couple hours!

I set off on the 29th intending to reach Maine, but I decided not to push it too far and did just over 11 miles to the Gentian Shelter – I was rewarded with another amazing view until the rain started. I set off today with too much food, I don’t plan on stopping for 8-10 days. You would think by now I would be smart about my pack weight and planning, but I’ll just think of it as a little extra workout during my last few weeks on trail!

With 1900 miles down I’ve just entered the Mahoosuc portion of the trail, a tough section that is overshadowed by the Whites. I’ll be in this portion for about a 100 miles, but afterwards it’s said that the last half of Maine becomes one of the easiest parts of the trail. If you’re keeping track at home I’ve got less than 20 days left! In those 20 days if you have any blog requests, please let me know and I’ll find some time to write and answer questions. Thanks for following along!

Day 114-116, June 24-26

Miles from Springer Mountain: 1870

Miles to Mount Katahdin: 322

I’m in the heart of the White Mountain National Forest and I’m loving it! This section has by-far been my toughest, my legs have taken a complete beating, I’ve never been this sore in my life – not after my first half-marathon, not after any hard days in the Navy, not after my first week on trail. That said, it has been the most rewarding days of hiking on the entire Appalachian Trail. Every tough mile and day has made these views worth every trial over 1800+ miles.

On the 24th, I woke up after an extremely windy night just north of Mt. Lafayette ready to conquer my first presidential, Mt. Garfield. It was a tough day, but at the top of each peak I could see the rest of the days hiking goals, I could see where I’d be in a few days – not much of the trail has been like that, the green tunnel blocks all distant views. One of the benefits about the Whites is the AMC huts that sit about 10 miles apart, each one sells baked goods and have places to relax, I’d have little mental goals to reach the next one for a small snack. I hiked as close to Franconia Notch as I could, I was expecting a box from Haley at the AMC Highland Center only a couple miles forward.

The 25th was my shortest day, I hitched a ride to pick up my box and eat an AYCE breakfast – a death wish for a thru-hiker, the food never stops! Haley sent me my cold weather clothes, plenty of food, and a new food bag. I relaxed and recharged, drank about 5-7 cups of coffee, before hitching back to the trail. The rain started so I only made it to the Nauman campsite, a beautiful rainbow emerged from the clouds right before sunset! I had a full slate of food, an easy day of rest before I conquered the Presidentials and the the baddest of them all, Mt. Washington.

I woke up early on the 26th, a big day was ahead. I stopped for a break at one of the most famous points on the trail, the Lake of the Clouds Hut. A beautiful hut nestled right between Mt. Washington and Mt. Eisenhower – it overlooks a spacious valley right besides some mile-high ponds. At the top of Mt. Washington there was a line to get a picture of the summit sign! A train and road go right to the top, the place was pretty commoditized, but I can’t argue – the views are a spectacle every person should see.

I continued on, we passed a man who was looking for skis, he had lost them while skiing next to Washington just last week! The trail continued around Jefferson, Madison, and Adams – it was a hard day of hiking. I took a nasty fall, but I got up, mad at myself for not paying more attention. I descended from the ridge top and hiked close to Pinkham Notch. I only made about 17 miles over 13 hours, it was the hardest day of hiking so far.

If there’s anything you take from this blog, it’s that someday you promise yourself that you’ll visit the Whites and see the grand views this place has to offer. Whether you hike and stay at the huts or drive to the top of Washington it’s worth every minute of driving. I’ve made it through the Prezi’s, but the Whites aren’t over – tomorrow I’ll conquer Wildcat Ridge and head towards a hostel at the end of the Whites. This post will have plenty of pictures, thanks for following along!

Day 111-113, June 21-23

Miles from Springer Mountain: 1827

Miles to Mount Katahdin: 365

Late on the 20th I was joined at the hostel by a few friends from home – Scott, Alex, and Merle, I’ve known all of them for years and they wanted to join me to hike a few miles of the AT. Scott has plenty of experience hiking the trail, but this was Alex and Merle’s first taste of the AT and boy, did they get a taste! They drove 14 hours from Northern Indiana, most of you who read are Hoosiers, but maybe you haven’t been to New Hampshire… let me tell you it’s not all corn fields and country roads up here.

We left out early on the 21st with a touch of rain, I anticipated it would yield as the afternoon wore on. Our first big task was summiting Mt. Mousilake, one of the more famous and gnarly mountain climbs on the trail. The guys were introduced to the trail with a 3500 foot climb over 5 miles – a climb that’s tough for thru-hikers. It didn’t help that the rain didn’t stop, it also didn’t help that the wind was blowing 35+ mph, it also didn’t help that the trail wasn’t very well marked and we kept getting lost. We ran over the summit, I knew the conditions were hypothermic, we ran to the tree line to take refuge from the wind. Stumbling into the shelter, we were all waterlogged and shaking. It was decided to stay and warm up, although the day was called short, we couldn’t go onward. Instead we took the time to relax and catch up, I’d rather cut a day short and enjoy my time than get my miles in but have a miserable time!

Although the guys had a rough first day on trail they woke up excited and ready to tackle day two! I think they were all running on pure adrenaline, which may have been dampened by putting on wet clothes. We pushed on with much better weather towards Beaver Brook Falls and Mt. Wolf. Finally with no rain or clouds we saw some beautiful views and a pleasant day of hiking. The bugs weren’t terrible until the evening where we settled at Eliza Brook Shelter.

On the 23rd we set off towards Franconia Notch where the guys would shuttle back to the car and I would carry on towards Mt. Lafayette. The day started with a huge climb, but it was worth it at the top – the best view of the weekend was at Kinsman Mountain. We sat at the top staring off into the distance, the New Hampshire mountains and landscape go in forever at above 4000 feet. It was an easy, sloping hike towards the Notch and I said goodbye to the guys. I’m impressed at how well the hiked, this is a real tough part of the trail and without any experience up here they held the pace and persevered. It’s a testament that anyone can hike this trail, you just have to have the will to commit yourself to putting one foot in front of the other.

After they left I set off towards Mt. Lafayette, a mile-high bare summit that is the first in a slew of roller coaster climbs through the Whites. There was no rain, but the wind was horrendous. I couldn’t walk normally, the wind would blow my ankles into each other as I lifted my feet. I have a new found respect for wind, I thought I knew what a breeze was after standing under a refueling helicopter while in the Navy, but I was reintroduced on Sunday! I made it over the mountain to camp a few miles before Garfield Pond. It was a windy night, but a beautiful tent site overlooking the NH valleys.

This trail is something to experience first hand and hopefully I’ve inspired some of you to set out towards a white blaze. I was thankful some friends of mine took advantage of my time on trail and joined me in my experience, the conversation and friendship gave me a mental boost as I start the process of completing my hike. I know plenty of you can’t join and are with me in spirit! The next few days are a huge point in my hike – Mt. Washington approaches!

Thanks for following along!

Day 108-110, June 18-20

Miles from Springer Mountain: 1793.3

Miles to Mount Katahdin: 398.7

Hello, New Hampshire! On the 18th I passed into NH after a long day of hiking, finally crossing the Connecticut River leaves me with only two states left to finish. After crossing the river I entered the town of Hanover where Dartmouth College is located, I stopped in town to gorge down 3 huge beers and 5 frisbee-sized pieces of pizza! I was ravenous, the pizza shop gave me one of the slices for free because I’m a thru-hiker. I stopped at a Co-op grocery store to pick up some ice cream then set up my tent in the woods about 50 yards from Dartmouth’s softball fields.

The bugs didn’t care about my accomplishments, the next day they swarmed and attacked ferociously – if someone videotaped it and couldn’t see the tiny bugs, it’d just be a hilarious video of a hairy man slapping himself while screaming expletives. The bugs may have won the battle, but I’ll win the war!

I’ve been pushing hard miles over the past week as I anticipate to meet some friends from home to section hike a small portion of NH. I planned out heavy days upfront so I was left with a couple shorter days, in hindsight I would have pushed harder to avoid some rain, but if I had hindsight my trail experience would look a lot different! I rented at the base of Smart Mountain so I could enjoy the summit tomorrow before I cruised towards a hostel later on.

A beautiful summit was not to be, the 20th was rainy and the trail was treacherous. I took some nasty spills and bent up a trekking pole pretty good, it did its job and kept me stable. I was completely waterlogged, but I was moving at a fast enough pace to avoid the cold. It’s tough mentally knowing you’re hiking a beautiful section, but you can’t enjoy it due to the rain. I marched onward towards the Hiker’s Welcome Hostel where I showered, laundried, and warmed up – also treating myself to a pint of Ben and Jerry’s! I’m anticipating my friends tonight, so that we can set off tomorrow!

In the last hour of my day on the 20th I passed the 400 miles left mark, I’m a month out from my intended summit date of July 18th. Math-wise I’m left with a pace of one hundred mile weeks, slower than what I have been doing, but planned smartly. The trails of New Hampshire and the Whites National Forest are some of the toughest overall on the AT, my pace will slow as I hike through the Presidential Mountains and high peaked of the Whites. I’m ready mentally and physically for the task, but I’m comforted with the mindset that I don’t need to rush and I’m not crunched for time. The end is in sight!

Thanks for following along!!

Day 105-107, June 15-17

Miles from Springer Mountain: 1726.6

Miles to Mount Katahdin: 465.4

A nero, hostel bed, shower, and laundry have had a profound effect on my mileage this week! I think another way to put that is: being civilized is good. I kid (only to myself, if you’re reading this you already know what I’m saying), but after resting in Manchester I’ve been able to put big miles under my feet. As of the 16th, I’ve got less than 500 miles left of the Appalachian Trail!

On the 16th I was able to get moving out of the hostel at a good pace before any drops of water fell. I knew the rain was coming, it’s nature’s motivation for a hiker. A lot of the shelters in Vermont are prone to heavy usage from day hikers or weekend partiers, most of the shelters are close to roads or ski resorts, not that I mind the extra company, but it can prove troublesome when searching for a spot. The advantage of being a thru-hiker is that I’ll use a shelter no matter how rainy it is; most debaucherous teenagers won’t hike 10 feet to smoke their cheap weed if there’s an ounce of rain. I ended my night at Greenwall Shelter, which had one of the nicest privies I’ve seen since the Shenandoah’s, but the darn thing didn’t have a lock – I understand I’m not entitled to privacy out here, but I’d appreciate a lock!

I woke up to rain, it rained all day, but I didn’t mind, it wasn’t down pouring and it’d help keep the temperature down. I had much bigger things in mind – literally, Killington Peak lay ahead, a 2500 foot climb. The rain didn’t help the climb, but I kept focus, avoided all the puddles I could, and made it to the top in the early afternoon. The best part of a tough uphill is the winding downhill that follows, maybe there’s an allegorical life lesson there but I’ve encountered enough of those on the trail already. I rested at a shelter on the other slope of the mountain anticipating a better weather day. It’s significant to note that today I passed the 1700 mile mark and the 500 miles left mark – one by one!

The 18th was my better weather reward for the last 36 hours of rain. I’ll admit that sometimes I move a little slow in the morning no matter how the weather, but I’d like to think it’s because I either wallow in the sadness of the rain or rejoice in the joy of the sunshine, or its because I’m sore and don’t want to move! The afternoon I blazed through the miles and found a beautiful spot to camp in the valley. I know it’s cliche to reference The Sound of Music when describing a specific terrain (we all know the scene I’m talking about), but I felt like singing with the beautiful location of my tent. Funny enough I could get cell service by standing on my feet a foot north of my tent, but not while laying down inside, hmmph!

New Hampshire tomorrow and with it the dreaded White’s!

Day 102-104, June 12-14

Miles from Springer Mountain: 1652.9

Miles to Mount Katahdin: 539.1

The last two days have given rise to two questions: Where did the good weather go? and Who decided that Vermont should be the muddiest place on Earth? The amount of bugs and mud has been astounding, the rain falls hard but not as voraciously as the bugs bite. Mosquitoes and Black Flies may be the death of me, as long as it’s after I reach Katahdin!

The 12th was my first full day in Vermont and I think I’ve got a pretty good idea what deal the devil made with the trail in VT. The mud never ends, but finally with all the hard work of walking finally comes some completely beautiful views. I’m dirty than I’ve been all trail, but I’m reaping some rewards at the top of some arduous climbs. In the past few states the views have been hard to come by, as a midwestern kid I never fathomed how mountainous Vermont was! One neat thing is that most of the mountains climbed on the trail pull double duty as ski slopes in the winter – one of the hikers I’ve been hiking with the last few days comes up here every winter for the “rad” ski slopes! I even got some trail magic of local donuts, candy, and ice cold water.

The 13th was as foggy and wet as can be! I had a tough climb up Stratton Mountain, but I didn’t even get to enjoy the views due to the weather. Stratton Mt. has some vital AT significance, its peak is where in the 1930’s a man named Benton Mackaye came up with the idea for a scenic trail that would become the Appalachian Trail. I’m glad he had a better time at the summit, with my experience at the top I’d invent a scenic trail indoors! I pushed onwards and ended my day at Spruce Peak Shelter.

After almost three weeks of no laundry and only one shower during that time frame I was ready for a break. I woke up on the 14th, walked 2.8 miles to the trailhead and hitched a ride into Manchester Center, VT. I had an odd craving for Mcdonald’s Hot Cakes, a meal I haven’t had since college in 2014. I filled my craving, resupplied, relaxed at Starbucks, then headed to my hostel for the night – the Green Mountain House, I finished all my chores, recharged my batteries, relaxed, and ate so much my stomach hurt. It was a great day to take a break from the trail, I needed to fully clean up and I’ve been in good spirits lately, I didn’t wanna crush those!

Vermont is almost half over! If it weren’t for the mud and bugs this may be my favorite AT state, with the impending rain I don’t think the mud is going away but maybe the bugs will be beaten back. I’m closing in on one month left, the end is in sight!

Day 99-101, June 9-11

Miles from Springer Mountain: 1601.3

Miles to Mount Katahdin: 590.7

It’s been a “YUGE” three days! I’ve passed the 100 day mark, crossed into Vermont, surpassed 1600 miles, and have less than 600 miles left – lots of boxes being checked! These few minor accomplishments are big spirit boosters, especially in parts of the trail where motivation is becoming more and more crucial. With crossing into VT I have hiked through 10 of the 13 Appalachian Trail states.

The 9th was a comfortable day, the terrain wasn’t too rough and I hiked past a couple beautiful lakes – the trails in MA are extremely well-maintained and well-marked. I didn’t know it at the time, but one of the shelters I hiked past has a caretaker that makes blueberry pancakes for hikers in the morning – bummer! I made it to October Mountain with big plans to enter both Dalton and Cheshire, MA the next day.

I woke up early and hiked fiercely fast to get to Dalton early, I had heard about a free shower spot and a local laundromat, I considered it chore day. For those of you keeping track of my gross factor, at this point it has been exactly two weeks since my last shower and laundry, don’t worry it’s been my longest stretch. The shower was refreshing, the local community building caters to hikers and I’m grateful for their help. The laundry was not to be – after hiking about a mile and half out of the way I discovered that the one laundromat in town happens to be closed on Mondays, what luck! I guess just a few more days in dirty clothes will have to do.

Feeling a little disgusted, but slightly cleaner I hiked onward towards Cheshire. One of the local churches in town allows hikers to tent on their property, I was able to take respite from the impending rain. In town I did a small resupply and enjoyed the local Dunkin Donuts, it’s the little things! Today also marked 100 days on trail, the second half has definitely been a lot slower than the first. I’m thankful that I don’t have 100 days left, but it serves as a reminder to embrace every day on trail – something that has been harder and harder to do lately.

I woke up on the 11th moving a little slowly, it had rained all night and I wasn’t extremely motivated, but as I stirred the rain stopped and I set my mind to the goals ahead. Today was a big day – I knew I’d cross into Vermont and hit some major mileage goals. The trail made me earn it, I woke up to a 2500 foot climb up Mt. Greylock, descended 2800 feet midday, then finished with a 2000 foot climb! Through it all I pushed forward and made the mileage, I was exhausted by the end, but at least I was in Vermont!

The final three states will be a heck of a lot tougher than the middle 5, but I’m ready to keep pushing! Thanks for following along, enjoy some Ben & Jerry’s in my honor!

Day 96-98, June 6-8

Miles from Springer Mountain: 1536.3

Miles to Mount Katahdin: 655.7

Finally I can say that I have mostly returned back to full form! I’m still eating gingerly, a little more sluggish in the evenings, and look quite a bit thinner, but I am keeping my food down, have plenty of energy during the day, and feel comfortable during the night. It took a few sheepish days of letting the trail nurse me back to health, but by the 8th I was back at it! The trail provideth and the trail taketh away – the trail took my sickness and provided me with a slew of beautiful weather days. I can’t imagine how miserable I would have been had the weather been awful.

The 6th for the world was the 75th anniversary of D-day, but for me it was S-day plus one (sick day). I was still fearful to eat so I woke on the six with very little energy, nevertheless I was able to keep good pace for 6 miles into Salisbury. There I resupplied, relaxed, and recharged for a few hours at their hiker square. I didn’t treat myself very nicely – at some point during the day food became delicious again so I over indulged, a fellow hiker offered me a couple beers and so I partook (I would have been real sick had I said no), it all resulted in an unhappy stomach. For my sake, remember this is all relative to my violently emptied stomach – all I ate was a bowl of fruit, a small sandwich, some chips, and two beers, all of which resulted in my pains. Oh the agonies of a thru-hiker! Overall I hiked just under 8 miles, it was all I could muster energy-wise, but I did cross the 1500 mile mark!

The 7th was better, but I had two early climbs to take care of – Bear Mountain (the highest point in CT) and Mt. Everett. In between the two I crossed into Massachusetts!! Only 4 more states to go! This day was the final day of my sickness recovery and the toughest mentally, I was ready to kiss the trail goodbye – I talked to Haley for awhile, her inspirational talks lay on the spectrum somewhere between Lou Holtz and Bob Knight. I talked with a fellow hiker, Rugs, who told me that he had quit so much in his life, at some point he just decided he wasn’t going to quit quitting, it’s simple, but I hope I never forget it.

Breaking down mentally was the final hurdle in this sickness saga I’ve had, I’m certain it won’t be the last time my body and mind betray me on this trail, but this time may be the toughest. I’ve passed this test, I’m ready for the next one.

The pictures above and below are at the site of the last battle of Shay’s Rebellion, if you aren’t familiar google it!On the 8th I was back, baby! I pushed out 21.4 miles to Mount Wilcox North Shelter. I saw some familiar faces, swatted about 250 mosquitos, took an almost hourly break, but oh boy does it feel good to be back to normal. My body felt pretty beat at the end of the day, I ran out of toilet paper too so I’ll be using leaves for the next couple days (that may or may not be a joke I’ll let ya know next blog).

In a couple days I’ll reach 100 on trail! Thanks to everyone for following along, Vermont is next!

Day 93-95, June 3-5

Miles from Springer Mountain: 1495.5

Miles to Mount Katahdin: 696.5

The last three days have been a trip! It started with leaving New York and entering Connecticut, getting violently sick all night of the fourth, and finally crossing the 700 miles left mark. Holy cow, it’s been an exhausting 72 hours and I’m glad I’m still on trail to experience it, even if it was painful.

On the 3rd I woke up from my campsite and set off for a big day of walking. I crossed some train tracks next to the only railroad station directly on the AT, I walked through some sprawling fields and flat woods to shortly afterward enter my ninth state, Connecticut! New York treated me well, the rocks were tough at some points and I was hopelessly waterlogged for well over half of its miles, but I can safely say it’s in the top 13 of Appalachian Trail states.

With a positive experience on the 3rd, I set out for a larger day on the 4th, a 25+ miler. There were a heck of a lot of ups and downs, by the end of the day I was wore out, but proud I had made it as far as I hoped. I had what I thought was a great campsite, the water was a bit of a walk, but the bugs weren’t bad and I wasn’t alone at the shelter. Little did I know the great calamity of a night I was about to have.

It started around 12:30, I woke up feeling weird, bloated and uncomfortable. I checked my phone and tried to shrug it off, it wouldn’t go away. Going to the bathroom in the woods is a normalcy for hikers, however it gets a little tough when the routine gets muddy (read between the lines). I cleaned up and as I walked back to my tent I fell to my knees and started vomiting violently. I’ve thrown up plenty in my life, a lot of times it’s due to the Michigan flu, I’ve only had food poisoning once – this was closer to the FP experience. I spent the next three hours repeating the process, thankfully I was able to either get out of my tent for the former or at least open the hatch for the latter. It was a horrible night.

The next morning I woke up with only a speck of energy – I couldn’t even start gathering my things to leave until 11. I was completely dehydrated, unable to eat an ounce of food, and mentally defeated. I can’t pin it down exactly, but it might have been some random gastro-intestinal issue or norovirus. I always filter or boil my water, I don’t haphazardly eat food, and I stay as relatively clean as I can. It’s been a few weeks since I’ve ate a mouse… just kidding, it’s been a couple months.

The 5th was a slow day, I didn’t start walking until noon and even at that point it was maybe a mile and a half an hour – I stopped about every half hour to sit on a rock and collect myself. I forced myself to drink water, but I couldn’t eat, nothing seemed appetizing and the thought of some foods made me feel sick. I only made it about 8 miles, a mile outside of Falls Village, CT, and that was after stopping for an hour to charge my batteries and sit in the grass outside a power plant.

The past three days of have been some medium highs, but drastically low lows. I’m still out here walking, just a little slower and with a little less toilet paper. Thanks for reading and thanks for some of your questions, I’ll get to them next post when there’s less bathroom-esque jokes. I’m also sorry this post isn’t flush with photos, I couldn’t stomach taking more of them.

Day 90-92, May 31 – June 2

Miles from Springer Mountain: 1436.5

Miles to Mount Katahdin: 755.5

When the trail beats you down for three days, it lifts you up the three days after. If you read my previous post then you’d know my days were wet and miserable, thankfully I can tell you the last three have been (mostly) dry, full of beautiful miles, and enjoyable. It wasn’t an easy weekend – I put a lot of miles in and I beat my legs up for it, I’ve also been the main entree for mosquito Thanksgiving!

After all the rain I slept in on the 31st, I felt I earned it, but I might have also been feeling a little lazy. The beginning of the day was rough mentally, I beat myself up in my head when my legs don’t move like I want them to – maybe the trail knew this, because after I recovered I arrived at the beautiful Island Pond. The miles of trail surrounding it were filled with flowing grassy knolls, sprawling rock, and shimmering waters. I passed through the famed “Lemon Squeezer”, a gigantic boulder snagged between two rock faces waiting to crush an unlucky hiker, then a suffocating squeeze through another stepping rock portion. I earned my sweat for the day!

With the coming of a new month I decided it was time for a change with my morning habits – I’m dedicating myself to starting my day earlier. Getting out of camp and on trail around 6 gives me more time to knock out miles before the heat of the day, it boosts my sunlight usage efficiency, and I’m finding that by the time I severely tire in the afternoon I’ve already accomplished more miles than I probably needed to. I started small, waking up at 5:30. It may not be that early to you, but after walking for 10-12 hours it’s a tall order! I’d like to think that after the Navy, when I would be force to wake up at any godforsaken time of the night, I can handle the earlier days.

I set off on the 1st with a shorter day in mind, I needed to resupply and rest for a big mile push in the coming days. I made it to Bear Mountain around 10, it was mostly too hazy to see the New York City skyline, but I could definitely see smudges that were man-made. My next stop was Bear Mountain State Park, which is the peculiar location of a zoo. In fact, the Bear exhibit is the lowest elevation point on the entire Appalachian Trail at 124 feet. I’d imagine that most of the hikers that see it are only carrying the bare necessities! Right after leaving the park I crossed over the Hudson River, only a few miles south of West Point. I continued onward and resupplied for the next week at the Appalachian Deli. My rest stop for the night was only a half mile further – the Graymoor Spiritual Life Center, a Franciscan monastery that has hosted hikers since the 70’s. The didn’t give us any monk-made beer, but the had a pavilion to charge batteries and relax, a cold shower to clean up, and a large field to tent in. I cleaned up a lot of my gear, patched some holes and air dryed all I could.

I woke up early and set off earlier on the 2nd – the first day of a string of larger mile days I’ll be doing for the next week. It was only 24.5 miles but an early start is paramount to getting in large miles and still having time to relax in the evening. I stopped at Fahrenstock State Park to let my tent dry and eat a burger for lunch. It was so hot and even with consuming large amounts of water my body hit a wall around 5 so I stopped and set up camp.

I think my good fortunes with the weather and early mornings will continue into this week, my spirits are high and my legs relatively comfortable. Soon I’ll be in Connecticut, then shortly in Massachusetts! Thanks for following along, I posted a nutrition blog yesterday and I’m working on a post about my daily routine, if you have any questions or requests on trail life you’d like to read about please let me know!

Nutrition Part 2

Breakfast:

Oatmeal (various flavors)

Breakfast Essentials (milk chocolate – high protein)

Folgers Single Coffee packet

Nutrigrain Protein Grain bars (various flavors) or

Pop-tarts (various flavors) or

Honey Bun

I mix the first three together at night in my 16 oz. Nalgene bottle, fill it full of cold water, then let it cold soak overnight and enjoy in the morning. I supplement the mix with various breakfasts snacks that rotate depending on what I am craving. The mix provides a great kick in the morning and combined with the sugar of the hard snack I get the energy I need to start my morning.

Lunch:

Tuna Packet (various flavors)

Spam Single Serve

Extra Sharp Cheddar Cheese

Both in Tortilla

I was a little afraid of those small grocery store tuna packets before the AT, now they are a staple of my diet. I alter between flavors, but typically stick to sriracha, buffalo style, and lemon pepper. The cheese lasts even in the heat, together it all makes a nice combo and mid-day energy boost.

Lunch Snack:

Nutella

PB2 Powdered Peanut Butter

Both in Tortilla

I love nutella, I knew I wanted to incorporate it somehow and sacrifice the extra weight for the luxury. The powdered peanut butter doesn’t taste the greatest when mixed with water, but topping the nutella is a great secondary taste.

Dinner:

Knorr Rice Sides (chicken fried rice) or

Knorr Asian Sides (teriyaki flavor) or

Ramen Noodles (various flavors) or

various Good-To-Go and Mountainhouse meals

Dinner is the time to provide the most variety in my diet. Ramen is the most basic foundation and although I typically try to avoid it the simplicity is hard to pass up. The Knorr sides are tasty, have great weight-calorie ratios, and are cheap. The big dogs are the dehydrated meals, easily the most expensive of all food options, they are the tastiest and most filling.

Snacks:

Slim Jim’s

Honey Buns

Cliff Bars (various flavors)

Nature Valley

Kind Bars

Lara Bars

Beef Jerky

Almonds

Trail Mix

Various candies

The snacks I pack out are a mixture of energy bars I’ll need while hiking and whatever else I can fit into my food bag. Usually an after thought, sometimes I’ll pick up certain snacks as a reward. I average about one snack every two hours, it usually depends on how I’m feeling and where I’m at.

Feel free to ask me any questions about my diet, if you have any suggestions on lightweight, cheap, high calorie foods please let me know!

Day 87-89, May 28-30

Miles from Springer Mountain: 1375.8

Miles to Mount Katahdin: 816.2

From a great weekend and my best day on trail to rain, rain, rain! Three straight days of downpour have left me waterlogged and slow. My morale isn’t decimated, just soggy.

Tuesday, the 28th, was the wettest of the week. My feet were mostly spared – the trails weren’t stream quality yet because it hadn’t rained for a few days. There wasn’t much trudging through puddles, but the rocks become so scary in the rain. My pace is slowed due to the elements, but slowed again because of genuine fear; I’ve fallen a few over the past few days, it started on the 28th. I trailed through High Point State Park which marks a strategic point in the trail, at this point the danger of the rocks turns toward bouldering. Through PA to this point in NJ the majority of the rock scrambles have been with relatively low elevation change, the ground is flat and the trauma would be a broken ankle. Now, the rocks have grown vertically – not to astronomical heights, this part of the trail is relatively the lowest on trail, but to climb requires throwing up my trekking poles and grabbing on to rock.

The 29th, the rain held off until the afternoon but that may have been the most inopportune time! In the mid-morning I stopped in at Unionville, NY to grab a slice of pizza – it had the classic NY flop and tasted delicious. I made it through some gorgeous nature preserves and only a few miles from the grand climb called the “stairway to heaven” before the rain started. Oh man, did the rain start. I couldn’t even stop for water it was raining so hard, thankfully when I got to the shelter some generous hikers gave me some of their extra.

The next day I finally crossed into New York for good! The trail had been along the border for a few miles before, but I can now officially cross New Jersey off the list. I was welcomed into NY with a nasty fall, I wasn’t hurt just shaken up – I’ve been taking the falls a lot more slowly now. I rewarded myself for my struggles with a pit stop at Bellvale Farms Creamery for some delicious ice cream, I charged my batteries and relaxed before a short hike to the Wildcat Shelter. I cut the day short to avoid the nasty storms that were set to pass through in the evening. I was glad I stopped, I enjoyed the sound of the storm from the comfort of my tent. Rain is a lot more enjoyable when you aren’t walking in it!

The weather will turn for the better in the next few days, I intend to resupply and keep pushing towards New England over the next few days. Lots of big milestones are ahead, one step at a time!

Day 84-86, May 25-27

Miles from Springer Mountain: 1320.2

Miles to Mount Katahdin: 871.8

I hope everyone had a great Memorial Day Weekend! My weekend was wonderfully restful, a peaceful getaway from the trail, and a new restart to kick off the final portion of my Appalachian Trail adventure.

This blog has been a great way to show you all what my experience is, the amazing sights I’ve seen, the crazy people I’ve met, and how the trail has impacted me. Through it all I’ve showcased a lot of good and positivity with only a few glimpses into some of the tougher parts on trail. I think it would be dishonest of me to whitewash the trials of the trail; hiding the tough times would be a disservice to those who want to know what the trail is really like.

In light of that, last weekend I told Haley that I was giving myself one more week on trail – if things didn’t change then I was ready to be done and I was coming home. I was so physically tired, every day my legs would move a little slower, my feet were waterlogged for days on end, I hadn’t been completely dry in over a week. I had gone almost two weeks without seeing anyone I knew, all my trail friends were either off trail or days ahead. Mentally I was already thinking about college in the fall, ready to get started, ready to go home and start the next phase of life. I was missing Haley and my family, it was emotionally punishing thinking I was out here leaving them behind. I don’t think Haley could count how many times I called this trail a “stupid goal”.

Mid-week Haley decided to drive out to Eastern Pennsylvania to see me, she had one stipulation: if she was going to come see me I wouldn’t be able to ride with her back home, I have to finish. I quickly agreed to her demands, not thinking fully I just wanted to see her. Haley’s visit this weekend saved my hike. We relaxed, I recharged my body and my mind, we watched racing all day on Sunday, and my attitude changed. It’s been only two weeks since I was off trail in Indiana, but in those weeks my hike was nearly lost for good. I’ve been looking backwards for so many days all I could only see what was behind me, now I am looking forward, onward towards the mighty goal of finishing.

Instead of deciding to quit this past weekend I set off on Monday crossing into New Jersey and stepping forward into a new mindset. The trail provides as it always does – Memorial Day was the best day on trail I have had so far. My body felt great, the weather was beautiful, once again I’m seeing wonderful sights constantly, so many people were out enjoying nature on the holiday, the trail was tough but conquerable, and I knew after yesterday that I was going to finish this damn trail.

It hasn’t been easy, it won’t be easy, in the shape of the trail it’s going to get a lot harder, but courageously and confidently I’m ready to conquer the task ahead.

Day 80-83, May 21-24

Miles from Springer Mountain: 1275.3

Miles to Mount Katahdin: 916.7

After a restful night indoors I set off on the 21st, I started the day off great by getting lost a couple times – overall probably waking about an extra mile. It’s not hard to get lost at some points, losing the white blazes amongst the rocks has killed my pace a few times while in Pennsylvania. It’s the worst when I lose the trail and walk downhill, only to realize that I have to walk all the way up the hill I just trudged down. It hasn’t helped that the trails have been so waterlogged and crawling over wet rocks gets scary at points – I can imagine there is an ankle graveyard somewhere amongst the PA rock scrambles.

The 22nd was a resupply day in Hamburg, PA, I walked about a mile off trail to a local Walmart to pick up food for the next week. If you can picture seeing a hairy, smelly man with a huge, dirty backpack at your local grocery, you’ll have a sense of what it’s like for a thru-hiker to walk through Walmart. I sat in the entrance area to charge my phone and batteries for about a hour, a woman walked up and handed me $2 and encouraged me to finish my hike – I love trail magic! I walked back to the trail and pushed onward towards the Eckville Shelter, which is the first shelter I’ve been to that has a flushing toilet! The toilet flushes, but the little shack it was in didn’t have a light so I couldn’t even enjoy the view!

It rained all night and into the morning of the 23rd. It severely dampened my spirits, especially knowing that Knife’s Edge and Bear Rocks were ahead. Not only did I not get to enjoy these beautiful views, but I had to fearfully crawl over these wet rock faces. I had points of genuine fear, especially with a thunder storm raging overhead. I couldn’t even stop to google if my trekking poles would attract lightening! With no shelter nearby I had to soldier on, there were no trees or caves to hide by. Rocks alone kill my hiking pace, but with the water it can bring me to a crawling pace. Yesterday normally could have been a 8-9 hour day of walking, but instead was 12+ hours. My body was hurting.

In a few days the rocks will be over, but I still had one last major taste of it today. Trekking poles aren’t even worth using at some points, I had to cling to rocks with my fingers today. The rain has dried up for the most part, I wouldn’t have felt comfortable hiking today if it were raining. The largest difference in today’s punishing rocks is that at the very least there was always a beautiful view – the ridgeline today has been mostly clear of tree cover. My day was cut a little short to rest and relax in my tent.

This weekend I’ll be able to relax and recoup because…. Haley is coming to see me!! The past two weeks have been pretty tough for me mentally and physically so Haley decided to drive out to so we could be together this weekend. It will give me a much needed mental break from the trail, my feet a rest from the rocks, and the opportunity to clean up and recharge for the next few weeks. We will be around Stroudsburg, PA – I’m excited to watch the 500 and drink some local beer. My mind feels refreshed just thinking about the restful weekend ahead.

I hope everyone has a great Memorial Day weekend, whether you watch the race, enjoy a few adult beverages, see family, or are on vacation, I hope you relax and enjoy yourself. Thank you all so much for following me along, only a month and a half left!

Day 76-79, May 18-20

Miles from Springer Mountain: 1195.5

Miles to Mount Katahdin: 996.5

On Saturday I made a long pit stop in Duncannon, PA to do laundry, resupply, recharge, rest, and eat a couple hot meals. I made sure to get there early, I imagine any coin laundry shop is interesting on a Saturday morning and this one did not disappoint. The outfitter in town has a hiker hangout so I showered and recharged my batteries for a few hours, I picked up a new water filter to last me the rest of the way and some more butane gas. While in town I ate a burger at the “famed” Doyle Hotel – their motto is “service sucks, foods good, get over it” and this place did not disappoint. The burger was so good I didn’t mind waiting 15 minutes for my Yuengling, the service did kind of suck, but the people were genuine – the bartender gave me a big hug and she gave me words of encouragement as I left. I picked up enough food to last me to Hamburg, PA, and headed back to the trail. The white blazes lead you through the rest of the town towards the confluence of the Juniata and Susquahanna Rivers. It was only a short mile day and I rested my head at Peters Mountain Shelter.

I woke up to a small patch of rain that delayed my departure, I hoped it would be the end of the rain – it wasn’t. The day was fairly nice, very hot at times and the rocks weren’t treacherous. At 5 I got to a campsite, but I decided I had more miles in me so I proceeded onward. About 5-10 minutes later I was punished for my decision, the heavens opened and rain poured from the sky. I nearly jumped off trail when a thundering boom pounded over my head. It rained and rained, the 4.5 miles to the next shelter were maybe my fastest on trail. Unfortunately the shelter was full and I had to set up my tent, which was already wet from the morning rain. In the night it stormed horribly, I think a herd of buffalo may have been rampaging in the sky above me. This morning I was awoken to a woman calling out to see if I was ok – she said she hadn’t gotten much sleep last night because she was worried about me in my tent. I assured her I was ok, although it wasn’t the most restful night of sleep.

As a small reward to myself I decided to do a shorter day today, only 17.5 miles to 501 Shelter. It’s right next to the road, not far from Pine Grove, PA so tonight I’ll be eating lasagna from the local pizza shop! The shelter is completely enclosed and has a cool solar bubble at the top for light. There’s even a solar shower, but I have had my weekly shower already. The trail today was rocky and wet. One of the rivers had flooded over so there was a 50 yard stretch of above ankle water – my feet were still soaked when I stopped for the night. Thankfully everything is hanging out to dry while I relax and enjoy some lasagna before more rocks tomorrow!

LESS THAN 1000 MILES!!!!!

Day 74-76, May 15-17

Miles from Springer Mountain: 1145

Miles to Mount Katahdin: 1047

On the 15th I finally crossed the exact halfway point of the Appalachian Trail! It’s a weird accomplishment to ponder, I can’t help but look at my feet and wonder how they have carried me so far. I realize they are just a motor for the true things that have carried me – courage, steadfastness, resolve, and the unwavering support of the family and friends who love and care for me and my journey. It’s refreshing to see the miles left are finally lower than the miles walked, but I know there are greater tasks ahead. I’m ready.

The trail remains waterlogged and with it my feet, I’ve been nursing them as I can while still maintaining larger mileage days. I haven’t hit “Rocksylvania” yet, but it is coming fast. There’s a correlation between rocks on trail and expletives said – stubbing and kicking is inevitable and painful, I haven’t lost any toenails yet, don’t worry I won’t post those pictures! The trails so far in PA are wonderfully taken care of, maybe the best so far on trail. I’d imagine it is due to their direct access to some well inhabited parts of the eastern seaboard within only 2 hours drive of here, lots and lots of foot traffic.

The 16th gave me a breath of fresh air, a lot of the day consisted of walking on the edges of cornfields. It was muddy walking, but it had the double advantage of no inclines and that subtle reminder of the beautiful fields of Indiana. Unfortunately my campsite that night was about 50 yards from a pair of railroad tracks, maybe my lack of sleep is an indication on how well the rail industry is doing. PA seems to be the first state I’ve hiked in where the line between reality and trail hiking is blurring – there are constant cross roads, large amounts of section hikers, general stores at every major road, cell service in every valley, and the return of the ever elusive trail magic.

The beautiful fields carried into the next day, I strolled last Boiling Springs, PA and ate lunch at Scott’s Farm, the area’s training center for trail maintainers and Ridge Runners. Thankfully by now the water is mostly starting to clear and the trails have become less muddy, dont get me wrong there is still plenty of dirt to go around! I climbed a beautiful ridge line to exit the Cumberland Valley and settled for the night in my tent at Cove Mountain Shelter. Tomorrow I plan to enter Duncannon, PA to do laundry, shower, resupply, recharge, and eat a couple hot meals before pressing onwards.

My spirits have boosted over the past few days, I was pretty down on leaving Haley, but I’ve pushed myself to continue on this crazy goal of mine. Through the soreness and fatigue, my body and mind are holding strong and I’m excited to finish PA in the coming week. I anticipate some painful days with the impending rock scrambles, but they won’t kill my pace. I hope to find a place to stay next Sunday to relax and watch the 500!

As always, thanks for following along!

Day 72-73, May 13-14

Miles from Springer Mountain: 1074.7

Miles to Mount Katahdin: 1117.3

My first full day back on trail was completely miserable. It rained and rained, the trails were more like walking canals, my feet were waterlogged, and nothing stayed dry. For being my day back, it felt like the trail itself was trying to kick me back off. The rain started just after midnight and didn’t relent until about 3.

When I stopped for lunch my hands were trembling from the wet cold, I struggled to undo the buckles that hold my pack on. As I prepared my lunch, I had to use my teeth to open my knife and Ziploc bags. Mentally and physically I was in a bad place. I sat, regrouped my thoughts, collected myself, finished my lunch, and waited for the rain to stop.

When it did I proceeded onward, passing by the War Correspondents Monument, with a new mindset. My pace quickened and the trail got easier, my feet never dried, but I reached my goal of reaching the Pine Knob Shelter. I set up my tent, dried everything I could and ate some rice and beans.

This morning I woke up motivated ready to put in some big miles – a marathon day of 26.3 miles! The trails were just a tad dry from the last few days soak. I threw on my still wet socks, there’s no point in dry socks because my wet shoes would dampen them the second I lace them. It was quite chilly today, never above 55 degrees; I hoped it would be warmer to dry my feet, I was disappointed. After a long pre- lunch walk, my post-lunch walk was longer, but I had a huge goal: the Maryland-Pennsylvania state line, the Mason-Dixon Line.

Despite my waterlogged feet and the cool wind I hiked onward, taking a short pit stop at Pen-Mar Campground, the former home of an amusement park. Finally I stepped out of the south, out of Maryland, and finally into a new state, Pennsylvania. MD was only a 2.5 day walk, but it was quite enjoyable – easy trails, good views, and awesome historical markers. I hiked onward towards Tumbling Run Shelters – a shelter with two separate huts labeled Snoring and Non-snoring.

It’s been the tale of two hiking days – one good and one horrible, but I won’t let it be the last chapter of my hiking story. I’m excited for this challenge of rocky Pennsylvania, hopefully less than a week and a half here before New Jersey. I am glad to be back on trail, but it’s so hard to be away from Haley after this weekend. She motivates me more than I could ever motivate myself, I’ll hike as fast as I can so I can her in Maine as soon as possible! As always, thanks for following along!

Day 68-71, May 9-12

Miles from Springer Mountain: 1029.2

Miles to Mount Katahdin: 1162.8

This past weekend I took a few days off trail to surprise Haley for her IUPUI graduation. The plan had been in the works for over a month, everything worked out perfectly. It was the perfect weekend of reunion, family, and celebration. I am sorry I wasn’t able to see all my friends and family, we kept the word quiet to maintain the surprise and I knew with the short timeline I wouldn’t be able to see everyone.

Early Thursday morning I woke up at 4 to catch the MARC train from Harpers Ferry, WV to Union Station in Washington, D.C. From there I took the Metro to Reagan International and waited for my flight around 12. Everything was going smoothly so far, I wasn’t answering Haley’s calls and switched to airplane mode when she was on breaks. I made one crucial error – in the morning I turned off my location sharing and it notified her, I had no idea a notification would pop up. It didn’t ruin the surprise, but she became quite suspicious!

Besides some minor turbulence the flight was pretty plain, after my arrival I waited for Haley to get off work. Unfortunately she got off work a little late and ran some errands, the time waiting felt like forever – all this time I was ignoring her calls and only texting intermittently, I can imagine she was getting fairly annoyed! When she arrives home from work she usually goes outside to play with the dog, I knew this so I positioned my camera on the table and stood excitingly as she opened the door.

Surprise! I hadn’t ruined the surprise, I pulled it off! We were both shaking, it was an emotional moment. We relaxed the rest of the day, Haley still had a half day of work on friday before the weekend could completely kick off.

On Friday my grandpa, Terry, drove down with my brother, Alec, to come see me for a short time – we ate some pizza and enjoyed a drink before Alec and I explored some of the local breweries. The rest of the night we all hung out and celebrating, in preparation for the big day on Saturday.

Commencement on Saturday was a long, special ceremony in Lucas Oil Stadium – seeing Haley accomplish so much inspires me to one day soon have my own graduation! After all pictures and wonderful party preparation by Haley and her family we all celebrated the night away.

It was so joyous to see so many friends who came to congratulate Haley and enjoy each other’s company. In a way it made it hard to fly away and get back on trail, I’ll be honest and say that the serious thought of staying home loomed on my mind, but in the end I know I have a dream and goal that I need to accomplish. I flew back yesterday to D.C., took the Amtrak train to Harpers Ferry and set back on the trail right where I left off. It wasn’t a bad weekend to be off trail – it rained everyday and unfortunately it lingered into Sunday night.

I said goodbye to Harpers Ferry, but along the way I passed by Jefferson Rock – the point that Thomas Jefferson stood out to see the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers, and the site of the armory that was the focus of John Brown’s Raid. I passed over the Potomac River and crossed into Maryland, proceeding only about 3 miles in before finding a spot to stealth camp for the night.

I apologize this blog is a few days behind, the past week has been very busy! Thank you all so much for reading and following along, I was able to hear so many words of encouragement. The next post will catch you up and include my travels through Maryland!

Day 64-67, May 5-8

Miles from Springer Mountain: 1024.9

Miles to Mount Katahdin: 1167.1

I’ve reached the mental half-way of the trail, Harper’s Ferry, WV! It’s been over two months and I’ve finally made it here, the journey has been strenuous and exhausting, yet rewarding and exhilarating. To finally be halfway is an extreme sense of accomplishment and astonishment, however I understand the extreme gravity of the remaining task ahead of me.

On the 5th, I wasn’t able to have any Margaritas to celebrate Cinco De Mayo, but thankfully some section hikers at the shelter had their husbands pack in pizza and beer on a side trail. It was so nice to talk to them, give advice for their hike, and hear their experiences on trail. Sometimes my mind becomes so jaded from being on trail so long that it’s nice to hear refreshing tales of hiking adventures.

The next day, despite the continued pain in my feet, I started the embarkation of what is known as ‘The Roller Coaster’. It is a 20ish mile stretch of constant uphills and downhills each spanning over 200+ feet, it doesn’t seem too strenuous at face value but after the 10th hill you’re ready for the ride to be over. Luckily there is a shelter about 3/4th the way through that I stopped at and tented to let my tent dry from the previous rainfall. The roller coaster kicked my butt, I’ve hiked it previously, but I still wasn’t ready for its tumultuous ride. On a huge note, I crossed the 1000 mile mark!

After resting most of the way through, I woke up on the 7th ready to finish the job of ‘The Roller Coaster’! I finally started the embarkation of the West Virginia and Virginia state border, although I couldn’t say I was totally out of Virginia, I knew it was close. When I say I was walking along the border, I mean exactly that – the ridge line the trail follows is the direct border. I was able to see some beautiful views before stopping at a campsite about 4 miles out from Harpers Ferry.

Today, I started my hike bright and early in order to reach the Appalachian Trail Conservancy right when it opened and have my picture taken on the famous porch steps. Only a short couple miles into my day did I finally kiss Virginia goodbye, it’s been a long ride but I’m glad to finally be in a new state. I’ll always feel sentimental about Virginia and I loved hiking through her but, I know there are some great trails ahead. After reaching the ATC I was a little stumped on what to do – I knew I was going to relax today, but when hiking it’s hard to just stop for a minute. I resupplied and ate some good meals, tonight I rest my head at the Teahorse Hostel. I feel well rested and my feet are in better shape.

I’ve been able to accomplish so much over the last couple months, the past few days have been crucial to realizing that success. This goal isn’t accomplished without the minor progress points of the 1000 miles or the mental halfway. At this point I truly owe my success to: Haley, for supporting me in my dream and motivating me when I couldn’t motivate myself, without her love and support I can say with confidence I wouldn’t be here; my parents and Haley’s parents for supporting me and believing in me even when they thought I was crazy; and finally, you, for reading my site, following my dreams, supporting me financially, and sharing. I owe it to everyone for how far I’ve come – although it’s my legs that walked here, it’s on the back of all who support me.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart, I’ve got another half to go – trust me, Yukon is hiking onward.

Day 61-63, May 2-4

Miles from Springer Mountain: 973

Miles to Mount Katahdin: 1219

The Shenandoah’s are over! The ‘myth’ of a flat Virginia is finally becoming true. Anyone looking for a small hiking experience should walk the Shenandoah’s – the trails were well kept, the scenery was beautiful, and it’s a perfect mixture of luxury and nature.

This is the kissing tree, at one of the last shelters in the park.

I’ve been dealing with some serious pain in my feet, when Haley came to visit I switched to a new pair of shoes and it’s been painful. At the start of my hike the widening of my feet was offset by the widening of my shoes, however with new shoes my feet are much wider. It has drastically slowed my pace and I’ve found myself nursing my feet, I’m undeterred! I’ve been taking the last couple days slow to acclimate and heal.

On the 4th I was able to resupply in Front Royal, I got enough food to last me until Harper’s Ferry where I intend to relax and prepare for the next big stretch of trail. While in Front Royal I stopped at the Front Royal Brewing Company. They had free laundry and showers, a perfect hiker heaven. The beer was delicious, they even had a home brewers fest! One of their unique things was baseball cards for each of their beers that describe the flavors and styles. So cool!After all that beer I didn’t make it too much further, the rain started so I camped not too far from a beautiful little creek. I’m in love with the trails out here, the trail clubs take such good care.

Thank you everyone!! I’m out of my second National Park, now onto the huge goals of the 1000 mile mark, Harper’s Ferry, and the halfway mark!

Day 58-60, April 29-May 1

Miles from Springer Mountain: 925.3

Miles to Mount Katahdin: 1266.7

It’s finally May, I’ve passed the 900 mile mark, and today makes 60 days on trail! I’ve made it this far, my body feels good, and I’m enjoying every single second of being on trail. I’m not as far as I thought I’d be, but I am currently on pace to finish mid-July, a goal completely attainable.

The last three days have been mostly uneventful : I received some trail magic – donuts and gatorade, I met a couple German tourists, stopped for lunch and beverages at the Lewis Mountain Camp Store, and had a stare-down with a mouse at the shelter last night.

I know it’s a short blog today, but it will be an exciting next 7 days as I exit the Shenandoah’s and finally kiss Virginia goodbye!

Just one of the views I get to see in the Shenandoah’s every day!I’m sorry for the disheveled look, this was close to the end of the day and I just wanted to get the picture.I did not lay my head to sleep here!

Day 55-57, April 26-28

Miles from Springer Mountain: 871.4

Miles to Mount Katahdin: 1320.6

On the 26th I had one goal in mind: get to Rockfish Gap. The rain wasn’t going to deter me nor my tired legs, I knew a wonderful weekend with Haley was awaiting me. Along the trail was a cemetery and an old homestead with only the chimney still standing.

I anticipated waiting for a few hours for Haley’s arrival, she was going to leave work around mid day. I ate a hot dog and some kettle corn at the local stand, waiting at the area visitor center to arrange a ride to our Airbnb. As I stood around for a few minutes at the visitor center, Haley calls and asks if I was in a little white building atop a lookout. She asked if everything was ok in the parking lot and maybe I should go check to make sure. When I walked outside, she was sitting in her car waving!! I was so shocked, usually I can root out her surprises. It was a joyous beginning to our weekend, I couldn’t believe she was already in town!

Friday night we were able to take care of all my “hiker chores” – laundry, grocery shopping, and cleaning all my gear. We even had plenty of time to check out a couple local breweries!

Saturday was a big day, we rose early to drive to Charlottesville to fulfill a donut craving – this awesome shop Duck Donuts. A downtown farmers market, record and book shops, another brewery, and exploring the Downtown Mall – a long street of shops and restaurants. Charlottesville was beautiful, had friendly people, and so much to see.

After we left Charlottesville, we head towards Crozet to visit a couple more breweries – Starr Hill Brewery and Pro Re Nata Brewing Co. PRN has a huge outdoor patio made out of storage containers! We headed home to make our own dinner – steak fajitas. I’ll admit Haley made most of the meal, I was working on packing my gear – she did a wonderful job!

Today we relaxed and enjoyed our last morning together, unfortunately we won’t be able to see each other until I summit Mt. Katahdin in July (fingers crossed!!). She dropped me off at the trailhead and I set off, finally entering the Shenandoah Mountains. I took it easy today, only about 9 miles. Tomorrow I start the long walk towards my next goal, Harper’s Ferry!

I needed this weekend to relax my legs, take care of my gear, and mentally prepare for the next bit of trail. Haley and I enjoyed every moment together, we both needed the getaway and we took advantage of every moment we had! Thanks for following along, there will be plenty of great pictures from the Shenandoah’s!

Day 51-54, April 22-25

Miles from Springer Mountain: 848.1

Miles to Mount Katahdin: 1343.9

As I have continued my push towards Waynesboro, the last four days have been filled with picturesque views and delightful weather. Only today has the rain started, although thankfully at the end when I am in the security of my tent.

This rock above didn’t impale me and I was able to enjoy the view!The James River is a river I am very familiar with after living in Virginia for a few years, it was a weird accomplishment crossing it, knowing Virginia is almost over!Don’t end up like this kid! Finally 800 miles down! 4/11 of the way done 🙂

This was my view from The Priest, at The Priest shelter log people would ask forgiveness for their trail sins – such as accidentally stealing a gatorade, not digging a deep enough scat hole, etc…

Today I was able to make a quick pit stop at Devils Backbone Brewing Company, they offer a free shuttle from the trail to the brewery so I took advantage and enjoyed a few drinks and dinner! Tonight I’m resting my head at the Rock Point Overlook and will wake up early to push onwards towards Waynesboro!

I apologize for my posts becoming more infrequent, it is not a habit that will become a trend. I have been pushing more miles every day lately which leaves me more tired and with less time to write, I promise I’m still out here fighting! Thanks for all your support!!

Day 47-50, April 18-21

Miles from Springer Mountain: 761.7

Miles to Mount Katahdin: 1430.3

I hope everyone had a wonderful Easter! The only thing the Easter Bunny brought me was a much needed respite from the rain!

On the 18th, I awoke at the haunted shelter without meeting any ghosts or having any nightmares, to my knowledge I didn’t pick up a long-term demonic presence either, but time will tell. However, I did pass the Eastern Continental Divide, the waterway division of the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico, and I got to see the famed Audie Murphy Memorial, near the sight of his untimely death in an aviation accident.

The next day, the 19th, I was extremely excited to see the beautiful landmark Mcafee’s Knob, but the weather had other plans. Fortunately I have been to the knob before, I felt bad for the friends I was hiking with who didn’t and may never get to see it’s wondrous views. The rest of the day was a treacherous unsuccessful attempt to avoid the rain and stay dry, I failed miserably. I laid to rest only a few miles from Daleville where I could resupply and enjoy a nice meal.

On this hike I’ve gotten to see many gorgeous ridgelines and valley views, the 20 miles just outside of Newfound Gap in the Smokies is my favorite, but the 10 miles into Daleville is a close second. The walking was easy and I took my time to enjoy the views. In town I resupplied until Friday at a Kroger and ate some tasty brisket at the local BBQ joint. I headed on my way and passed the 1/3rd way mark on the AT! I celebrated my accomplishment by relaxing on the luscious green pasture, taking off my shoes, and once again enjoying the view. Of course I love hiking, but I’ll never turn down a moment to just sit, relax, and look out into nature’s beauty.

Although the nightly rain caused me to wake up with some morning condensation, I was not deterred to turn Easter Sunday into a big day of hiking. At 27 miles I think it is my biggest day so far and my feet are feeling it. If you ever get a chance I suggest you drive the Blue Ridge Parkway, it weaves with the AT for the next 100 miles and I saw many people getting out of their cars to take pictures. It was a peaceful, long day with not too many strenuous inclines or declines, although that will change over the next couple days.

Despite my current tire, I’m excited and motivated for the next few days. Haley and I are going to relax and enjoy beautiful Waynesboro together, I just have to make it there in one piece first!

Day 44-46, April 15-17

Miles from Springer Mountain: 681.2

Miles to Mount Katahdin: 1510.8

On Monday, the 15th, I was excited and ready to move on from wonderful Pearisburg until I stepped outside. The wind was horrible, it drizzled rain, and the surrounding mountains were covered in clouds. After a bit of coercing from some trail friends I decided to zero at the hostel, as I went to pay other hikers walking down from the mountains said it was snowing on top. I made the right decision. Another day in at the hostel was a perfect break for my feet, we all ate mexican food, watched The Godfather until the DVD skipped, drank some beer, and relaxed our weary legs.

The next day was a bright, early morning start and with comfortable terrain the first half of the day flew by. Eventually the trail became tougher to walk, so many of my steps consisted of avoiding huge puddles of water and dangerous rocks. Right at the end was a demoralizing, steep climb, but I was rewarded with a night at the Bailey Gap Shelter. There was a neat, little water source right next to the shelter – you can see the tiny hole where the water actually bubbles from the ground!

Yesterday, was a little tough mentally with two rough 1200+ climbs, but eventually I made it to Sarver Hollow Shelter. It’s rumored to be haunted and an abandoned house sits not too far from the water source. Along the way today I got to see Kelly Knob and the largest oak tree on the southern part of the AT.

It’s been a rough couple of days, but my legs feel good and I’m ready to keep cranking out 20+ mile days. Hopefully the rain will hold off until after I get to see the amazing Mcafee Knob! Thanks everyone!

Day 41-43, April 12-14

Miles from Springer Mountain: 635.9

Miles to Mount Katahdin: 1556.1

Tonight I am resting my head at the Angel’s Rest Hikers Heaven, it has been a tough few days but I have earned my rest. The small, neat town of Pearisburg has been nice to me. I’ve been here before, a small weekend vacation last year with Haley, but unfortunately I haven’t been able to enjoy the sites today like we did previously. The weather has been tough, constant rain and fluctuating temperatures make consistent hiking a tall task. I’ve marched onward despite it and appreciate my rest because of it.

The last two days have been 20+ mile days and my feet have taken a beating. My spirits are still relatively high and I am graciously anticipating walking without beating rain. Unexpectedly, the nights have been some of the easiest parts – instead of freezing, I’ve found myself sweating! It is a problem I will gladly handle.

On the 12th I passed the 600 mile mark. I took a second at the marking to remark at the accomplishment and understand how far I’ve come. It’s been a long few weeks, but seeing each mile pass brings great personal pride. Being away from the ones I love gets harder with each step but I relish in the fact that every feet passed is one foot closer to being home.

I’m excited to reach further and progress on the trail over the next few weeks, I can see Harper’s Ferry and the halfway mark in my crosshairs. Until then I relish the moments of relaxation and remembrance of daily memories I make on trail.

See you this week, Mcafee’s Knob!

Day 38-40, April 9-11

Miles from Springer Mountain: 580.4

Miles to Mount Katahdin: 1611.6

On the 9th I completed my longest day on trail so far – 26.0 miles. The terrain and weather were perfect for a high mileage day so I gratefully took advantage! Only a day after hiking through a field of ponies, I passed through a field of cattle grazing on the grass – they weren’t as friendly as the ponies. I was able to make a pit stop at the Mount Rogers Outdoor Center and purchase a Mountain Dew as a small personal reward. It’s not much and obviously not healthy, but it’s little things like a pop that brighten a long day. I stayed a shelter next to a beautiful creek, the overlook was small enough to see the wondrous array of stars over my head.

The next morning I passed along a historic school house that has been made into a hiker haven. Some friends of mine had spent the night there so I stopped by to say hello and take advantage of the trail magic that was there. Next it was only a short hike to the I-81 underpass where I did a small (expensive) resupply at a couple gas stations and enjoyed a hearty southern breakfast at The Barn Restaurant.

The next few miles were through balds and spacious flatlands, no better way to enjoy the green grass than by sitting and relaxing for a few minutes. It kills my pace and lengthens my hiking day, but it makes it all worth it to see the sun and catch my breath. A break was earned too by crossing the quarter-way mark! After 39 days on trail, I am finally one-fourth of the way done. I ended my day at Knot Maul Branch Shelter and had my first experience with shelter bugs, the cold weather had kept them at bay until now! I still got a good nights sleep even after saying some unkind words to the creepy-crawlers sharing the shelter with me.

Today was a great day of hiking! Although I had to conquer a 2000 foot climb, the view at the top was worth every foot. I was told a sinkhole millions of years ago created this open valley that is now inhabited by Amish. After enjoying lunch I walked along the ridge line to my current abode, the Jenkins Shelter. There is a great crew of friendly faces and it has been an enjoyable night, we are all looking forward to a big burger at one of the trailside restaurants tomorrow!

Thank you everyone for your patience, I apologize for not getting my posts out more often! Sometimes I can hike in range of cell service all day only to descend into a valley for shelter and the service disappears. Nonetheless, I appreciate the support, over a quarter of the way done!

Day 35-37, April 6-8

Miles from Springer Mountain: 515

Miles to Mount Katahdin: 1677

I left Damascus after a last town meal of delicious wings. It was only a short hike to the Saunders where I joined by a few section hikers. The days that involve hiking after leaving a town are always the worst day – mentally and physically. I soldiered on forward towards the Grayson Highlands State Park.

I had heard about the wild ponies on this part of the trail, but I wasn’t expecting on how close I’d get to them! At Thomas Knob shelter they kept us up until 9 by licking the wood of the shelter.

They were everywhere! Walking throughout the park I entered and left their domains several times, but only once did a pony get on the trail and block my path

Today I am sleeping at the Hurricane Mountain Shelter, I intended to hike further, but the rain limited my range. I am feeling good and make great progress, my few minor injuries and aches have almost completely healed. I am excited to keep pushing over the next few weeks, thanks everyone!

Day 33-34, April 4-5

Miles from Springer Mountain: 471

Miles to Mount Katahdin: 1721

After two long days I’ve finally entered Virginia and the first town, arguably the most famous trail-town, Damascus. It’s been a long, wet couple days, but they’ve been filled with beautiful views as I finally kiss Tennessee behind!

On the 4th I completed my longest day of hiking on the trail so far – 23.6 miles. I hadn’t intended to hike that far, but the terrain and weather were conducive for heavy mileage. I woke up at the Boots Off Hostel, hiked around the beautiful Lake Wautega, and ended my day at Double Springs Shelter. The only downside to arriving to a shelter at sunset is that all the nightly preparation and eating is done in the dark. I enjoyed a peaceful night of sleep until the wee hours of the morning, then the rain started.

(The stone says lived alone, suffered alone, and died alone)

The rain beat down hard on the metal roof of the shelter waking all of its occupants at 6 in the morning. Thankfully all of us are used to early hiking. It was dreary, looking out from the warm confines of a sleeping bag to the pounding rain and puddling mud. In the back of your mind a voice tells you, it’s time to start walking. I gathered my things and set off.

At about 9:30 this morning I had had enough, in perfect order an abandoned shelter appeared in the distance. I sat and warmed my cold bones for a couple hours, I needed the rest and reprieve from the cold rain. After eating lunch at 11:30 I hiked onward under much more pleasing skies. The miles fell quickly and before I knew it I was crossing the Virginia state line! 3 states down, 11 to go!

I soon reached Damascus, walking the city streets to an awaiting warm abode. I have settled for the night in the Broken Fiddle Hostel! I enjoyed a nice dinner at the Damascus Diner, picked up a pack of local beer, and now will rest my weary feet for the night.

It’s been a long couple days, but I am ready to continue the pace and see what the ever beautiful state of Virginia has to offer.

Day 30-32, April 1-3

Miles from Springer Mountain: 428.5

Miles to Mount Katahdin: 1763.5

The last three days have been extremely noteworthy and momentous, days that keep me motivated to be on this beautiful trail. The minor accomplishments accelerate towards major as the bigger picture becomes more recognizable.

On the 1st I finished my second state on the AT, North Carolina. Over the last 3 weeks the trail has hopped back and forth between Tennessee and North Carolina, sometimes it’s hard to know which state I’ve called home for the night. More miles than not have been spent walking directly on the state line between the two. The trail just veered into TN and with it, I say goodbye to NC. Maybe someday soon I will come back to enjoy the delicious beer of Asheville or hike the entirety of the state on the Mountains-to-Sea trail.

The night of the 1st I slept at the Wilder Mine Group Campsite, I couldn’t find the mine, but I was a little too tired to conduct a full search. Thankfully the night wasn’t too cold.

The 2nd produced another accomplishment, the completion of the 400 mile mark! If you’re keeping track at home then I am 2/11ths of the way complete. Along the way I passed beautiful falls, outlooks, and cascades, as if the designers of the trail knew that with the miles completed I would need a worthwhile view. I spent the night alone at the Moreland Gap Shelter, it’s somewhat of an oddity to spend the night alone at a shelter during this time period but I am in the middle of a couple big bubbles of hikers.

Today, I had a little bit of a mileage conundrum. I’ve purposely avoided staying at most hostels to save money, but I had to face the tough choice of a 15 mile day or a 24 mile day. With beautiful Lake Wautega in between, there are no good camping spots. I made the choice to stick to 15 and stay at the Boots Off Hostel, to rest my head and enjoy hiker company; I’m thankful I did stay, at the very least for the shower.

Finally, the third accomplishment has surprised me the most. When I designed this site I told Haley my goal was to have 10,000 views by my 100th day on trail. I rationalized that if I was lucky 100 people would read my site every day for 100 days. I’m blown away to say that after 31 days on trail I’ve already reached that goal. Thank you to everyone who has read my story, followed me along, rooted for me, encouraged me, donated financially, and shared my site. I feel the love and I and thankful.

March is over and yesterday marked day 30, my journey isn’t done and I’ve got plenty of will and fight to make it to Mount Katahdin. Happy trails everyone!

Day 29, March 31st

Miles from Springer Mountain: 378.9

Miles to Mount Katahdin: 1813.1

I’ve said it before, but the spectrum keeps changing: yesterday was the roughest day on trail. The tough combination of saying goodbye to Haley and the blistering cold made for a hard night. Snow covered everything and that steep incline was layered in ice. I only hiked 5.1 miles to Roan High Knob Shelter – the highest shelter on the AT. At least it’s completely enclosed and someone left us beer!

I can finally say my first month of hiking is done – March is over! Thank you to everyone for helping me get to where I am.

Days 25-28, March 27-30

Miles from Springer Mountain: 373.8

Miles to Mount Katahdin: 1818.2

Body weight: 189.6

After a month on trail I’ve already lost 20 pounds! If I shaved my beard off it might be a few more ounces, but that won’t happen anytime soon.

After waking up freezing at the top of Bald Mountain I awoke early to get some heavy mileage in. Although it’s cold in the morning, I usually am only able to hike a mile or so before I’m too hot to walk in a jacket. It’s an easy excuse to take a break! I took a break at Uncle Johnny’s Nolichucky Hostel before proceeding to Curley Maple Gap Shelter, it was a 21.1 mile day and my feet were hurting at the end.

Thankfully the next night was quite a bit warmer and the morning easier to march onward. During some trail magic at Sam’s Gap I met some Department of Veteran’s Affairs workers who were looking for homeless vets on the trail, I told them I am only temporarily homeless. I continued on 17.2 miles to a beautiful meadow that was perfect for camping. It was a much more relaxing day, I knew in the back of my mind that a restful weekend was ahead!

Haley set off for Roan Mountain, TN early and I only had to walk 8.1 miles to Hughes Gap for our much anticipated reunion. We booked a unique Airbnb that was “Indian” themed. Some delicious BBQ and quick resupply, our Airbnb didn’t have service or wifi so we spent the weekend off the grid! It was great to get off my feet and nurse them, I needed the break.

Saturday was my first Zero day on trail – I walked zero miles and my body was thankful for it. However, we couldn’t stay away from the trail and from 11-1 we did some trail magic of our own! Haley made some delicious puppy chow and cupcakes that we passed out to a few hikers. We met a few thru-hikers and section hikers, one of them, Recon, is finishing up his triple crown here on the AT. We made dinner – brats, mushrooms, and onions – and relaxed for the remainder of the day. It was peaceful and what we both needed. Haley brought me two of my all time favorite beers – Garfield Brewery’s Friday in the Park and Centerpoint Brewing’s Center Perk. That was the reminder of home I needed.

It was great to take a day off trail to let my body recoup and to relax with Haley, today I start back with a huge task right away – climbing Roan Mountain!

Trail Names

Trail culture is a myriad of different perspectives and actions culminating in a completely varied lifestyle for the trail inhabitants. One of those differences from realism is trail names. Besides section and day hikers it’s hard to find a hiker going by there given name. A trail name can be earned, given, decreed, or woefully happened upon.

Elmer, the elderly hiker who ran a hostel in Hot Springs, taught a little history on the subject. When hiking the AT started to gain more popularity a larger outcropping of people with common names appeared. It became hard to distinguish all the Matts’, Dans’ and Jessicas’ you would meet. Trail Names were invented to distinguish all types of individuals on the trail, whether it be to recognize a friend in shelter logs, share common mutual acquaintances, avoid specific individuals, etc. Over the years enough people have endeavored to hike the trail that nowadays even trail names are often repeated and overused. However, the community is still small enough to distinguish separate peoples.

Trail names can be earned in comedic and serious ways, lookalikes are common as are ironic name-callings. Sometimes it can be hard to fully understand a trail name until you actually meet the person and hear their story. These names are so ingratiated in the culture that thru-hikers will finish the AT never knowing someone’s real name, even in the modern landscape. It is the preferred nomenclature, a step away from reality, a vindication of what the trail really is. Trail names are a huge part of the culture and one way to understand a fellow hikers place on the trail.

These names are given and not brandished upon oneself. Your actions, beliefs, appearance, and more can distinguish your trail name. There is no rhyme or reason, but it becomes part of your identity while hiking. Some examples include: Haymitch, who resembles Woody Harrelson; Yeti, who hiked over Blood Mountain in shorts and a t-shirt; Lukewalker, who is a hiker diagnosed with Leukemia; Pantry, who carries a pantry of supplies in his pack; Old School, her pack was from the 80’s; Recon, who would scope out tent sites on the PCT; and myself, Yukon, for resembling Yukon Cornelius from the Rudolph the Red-Nose Reindeer cartoon. These are just a few of the multitude of names that hikers take on while out on the trail.

While in Hiawassee, GA I was told by a group of friends that I resembled the character Yukon Cornelius. Although slightly begrudgingly I accepted the name both because its truthfulness and the growing number of people calling me Yukon. Names can be changed or voted down, depending on the reason, but most are in good taste and fair. Some, like Slug, who woke up after a night of trail drinking with slugs all over his face, or Ziploc, who had to go to the bathroom and resorted to a Ziploc bag (I’ll let you imagine how it happened), aren’t the most prideful names, but their stories are unique and memorable.

Trail names are a wonderful, unique part of hiking culture and help cement the dramatic difference between life on the trail and off it. These differences can be rooted in realism or completely whimsical, but they contribute to the significant parity between the “real” world and the hiking community.

Day 22-24, March 24-26

Miles from Springer Mountain: 327.4

Miles to Mount Katahdin: 1864.6

After a great, restful night in Hot Springs, NC, we enjoyed one last home cooked meal at Elmers and I felt refreshed and ready to start… for about 20 minutes. After I said goodbye to Paul and Brenda, bought some extra food, and said hi to some trail friends, a bad combination of hard uphills, homesickness, and a small case of the Michigan flu made Sunday a bit of a rough one. After talking to Haley at the top of Lover’s Leap (a beautiful peak), I jammed out to the … And Justice For All and Licensed to Ill albums to motivate me and change my mindset. Along the way I saw a beautiful pond and some gravestones – some folks love the trail so much that they are buried here.

I soldiered on 11.4 miles to Spring Mountain Shelter. There I met some familiar faces and a few new ones, I met Alaska and Mr. Perfect – a very interesting and inspiring duo. Mr. Perfect is deaf, Alaska learned ASL in prison; the two met out here and have partnered up to finish the trail together and help each other out.

The next day was great until about 1 PM, when it started raining! I wasn’t about to let it stop me and pushed a hard 22.6 mile day to Flint Mountain Shelter. Despite arriving 30 minutes prior to sunset and soaking wet it was a good nights sleep with new and familiar faces. Cayenne is this awesome 62 year old family doctor who carries packets of cayenne to spice up his food and the Swedes who are a fast duo from Sweden hiking the trail.

Today, I hiked 18.9 miles to Bald Mountain Shelter. I wasn’t able to enjoy many of the beautiful views due to the heavy fog early in the day, then cloud cover on top of the mountains. The day was saved by a wonderful bit of trail magic at Sams Gap! A man who started this year, but tore his meniscus still wanted to be a part of the trail. He stocked us our stomachs full with hot dogs and our packs with snacks. It was a long day on trail, but the feeling of progress is rewarding.

This weekend I am finally going to be able to see Haley, we are going to rest and relax around Roan Mountain. I’m motivated to keep pushing over the next couple days to see her, take a much needed zero, and maybe do some trail magic of our own!

Day 19-21, March 21-23

Miles from Springer Mountain: 275.0

Miles to Mount Katahdin: 1917.0

After my wonderful, unique night at Standing Bear Hostel I was encouraged and well rested to push towards my next shelter in good timing. Unfortunately, my timing was about 30 minutes too short. While atop of Max Patch I encountered sleet that eventually turned into snow. Thankfully I only had a couple miles to go before I reached Roaring Fork Shelter- it was packed, which helped with warmth, but nonetheless we were all cold. I woke up to a complete snow covering, on the top of Bluff Mountain there was 2+ inches of snow, but amazingly upon descent the weather was 50+ degrees. Quite the conundrum for the body, but it was a welcome environment to sleep in. After walking 14.7 miles I reached Deer Park Shelter and settled in for the night. Last night may have been my warmest on trail, our elevation was the lowest since before the Smokies which played a huge part. The shelter may have had the smallest privy on the AT, to use it the door had to be kept open… NO PEEKING!

Today I nero’d in Hot Springs, NC. A delightful little town somewhere between relevance and nowhere. The diner has cinnamon rolls that were arguably better than Amish rolls. Graciously I met up with Haley’s parents, Paul and Brenda. We are all staying together at Elmer’s Sunnybrook Inn, a house on the Historic Registry that Earl Shaffer (LOOK HIM UP!!) stayed in. It is truly a unique place that can only be experienced by staying here. I can only preface it by saying that you will never stay in a home like this in the north. We went to dinner at the only tavern in town, with 50 beers and a varietal menu. It was a great dinner and filling after nights on trail. Paul and Brenda treated me to a great day off the trail and I am so thankful they took a day off of their vacation to see me, I am blessed to have such wonderful people in my life.

After a relaxing day today I am going to push onwards towards Roan Mountain, there I will get to see Haley and take a much needed zero. I don’t know how much service I will have until then, but I will blog when I can. The next big goal is Damascus, hopefully in less than two weeks! Onward!

Day 17-18, March 19-20

Miles from Springer Mountain: 241.8

Miles to Mount Katahdin: 1950.2

The last two days have been of high spirits out here on the Appalachian Trail! After a 20.3 mile day yesterday I met a great group of people at Cosby Knob Shelter. Along the way I got to enjoy the beautiful sites of the Smokies, paths few tourists walk along. Charlie’s Bunion was one of those highlights.I’ve enjoyed the end of the Great Smoky Mountains, truly one way of seeing America’s beauty.

Today I left the Smokies, a point at which 50% of thru-hikers have dropped out. They have been wonderful and a highlight of my hike forever. It hasn’t been easy, most nights have been colder than they have warm.

Today I got the pleasure of receiving two different pieces of trail magic. First, at Davenport Gap an older gentleman who volunteers for the park gave me a Mountain Dew, some chips, and some M&M’s. He asked a few ecological questions about wild animals – nope, I didn’t see any bears! Later on, next to I-40 I met a couple driving out to California to begin their PCT thru-hike. They sold their homes, quit their jobs, and packed everything in their car. They gave me a few beers and asked about the hike; as a sailor and hiker there is no way I’d turn down a beer even if it’s 12 PM!

Tonight I am staying at Standing Bear Hostel, a unique commune of a myriad of genuine folks. Everything is honest, homey, and built from hand. Tonight we are eating pork chops! I am gonna press on early tomorrow in hopes of reaching Hot Springs by saturday.

Thank you everyone for your support, I know I can’t respond to every comment. Everyone’s t’s and p’s have gotten me to where I am today.

Day 16, March 18th

Miles from Springer Mountain: 210.8

Miles to Mount Katahdin: 1981.2

Today will be one of my most memorable days on trail, it was full of accomplishments and great people! After a chilly night in the stuffed Russell Field Shelter I started hiking to warm my bones. As I climbed the mountain I thought snow was falling, however it was just ice blowing off the trees! I summited Clingman’s Dome this morning, the highest point on the AT. The 200 mile mark was a few feet from the base of the tower.

I couldn’t stay for too long at the dome because the wind was blistering, to move is to be warm. I trekked onward, taking a small break in Indian Road Gap, before pushing onward to Newfound Gap. At Newfound there had to be 100+ people enjoying the views on their Spring Break, thankfully they didn’t stare at me due to my smell. A trail angel left some trail magic for us – pop and muffins. It went well with my tuna and granola lunch!

Tonight I sleep in Ice Spring Shelter, it’s a cold one but I’m snuggled in my tent. Uniquely enough the privies here are wheelchair accessible, but I’ve never seen a wheelchair that could make it through these trails. It was a shorter day today, I intend to push over 20 tomorrow. The people at this shelter are a perfect mix of section and thru-hikers, friendly and welcoming. It’s been a great day on the trail!

A special shoutout to Mrs. Yoder’s 4th grade class, thanks for cheering me on everyone!!

Day 14-15, March 16-17

Miles from Springer Mountain: 197.2

Miles to Mount Katahdin: 1994.8

Yesterday I entered the Great Smoky Mountains National Park after leaving the illustrious Fontana Hilton. To get there I had to cross over the Fontana Dam – the largest dam this side of the Mississippi. Here’s a photo of the Fontana Lake and me on the dam – I’m still afraid of heights!

I stayed the night at Russell Field Shelter after walking 14.5 miles. In the Smoky’s you must stay in a shelter or tent right beside. I was in the packed shelter trying to stay warm! It wasn’t easy, but I made it to hike another day.

Today was a cold start but I worked hard to get to the closest shelter to Clingmans Dome. 16.4 miles slowly uphill really flies by with all the beautiful sites. Tonight I sleep at Double Spring Gap, which sits directly on top of the TN-NC state line and has water sources on both sides! I ate dehydrated lasagna and ramen for dinner, the ramen was a gift from my Polish and Latvian friends who are ending their hikes tomorrow.

It’s been a great couple days of hiking in seclusion in the Smoky’s. Tomorrow I push on for Clingman’s Dome and Newfound Gap!

Day 11-13, March 13-15

Miles from Springer Mountain: 165.9

Miles to Mount Katahdin: 2026.1

The last three days have been hike changing for me. My aches and pains are starting to subside, my feet feel less like blistered clubs and my knees don’t sting with each downhill step. I’ve met some influential and inspiring people that changed my mindset on the AT. I’m finally feeling comfortable on the trail, no longer blindsided by the complete unpreparedness that exists no matter how much preparation.

On day 11 we hiked to Nantahala Outdoor Center, a tough 16 miler that thankfully ended in a shared cabin. The hike itself consisted of a day-ending rapid elevation change – 3500 feet decline in less than 7 miles. It was my most comfortable day of hiking thus far. 6 of us split a cabin and we were all able to relax and shower. At dinner that night we saw the family of 7 (5 girls between 12-5) that are thru-hiking during their break at NOC.

The next morning was a touch slower, the outfitter at NOC didn’t open until 10 so we all slept in and relaxed. I picked up an extra supply of food so that I can make it through the Smokies without resupplying. An easy 7-mile trek made Sassafras Gap Shelter our home for the night, I actually got to sleep next to AT royalty- Mighty Blue who does some very popular podcasts on thru-hiking!

Today may have been the toughest and most rewarding day on the trail so far. The rain and wind throughout the night was a fright to sleep in. It didn’t stop in the morning, but I had to set off. Thankfully I only had to walk about an hour and a half in the rain – a small casualty of 4 muddy falls and one head bump resulted. Once I passed Stecoah Gap my fortunes changed, the weather turned beautiful. I met up with the crew and a small plan was designed.

Our goal became the shelter known as the Fontana Hilton. It’s considered the best shelter on the trail due to its view and amenities – showers, bathrooms, charging ports, and spacious room. Don’t be confused it is no Hilton and is still a wooden shelter set in the woods – the vision of luxury is skewed for thru-hikers. Heading here consisted of a 22.1 mile day that ended with about an hour of night hiking. The 22 miles included three shelters, a sunset downhill, and the summit of the famed Jacob’s ladder.

This extra push helped me accomplish a few tasks: passing the 150 mile mark, my first 20+ mile day, and my first bout of night hiking. Now tomorrow a new challenge begins, the Great Smoky Mountains southern border is in less than two miles! Tonight I rest out of the wind, hearing a guitar strum around the campfire and snoring in the shelter, I feel ready to continue the task ahead.

Day 8-10, March 10-12

Miles from Springer Mountain: 120.4

Miles to Mount Katahdin: 2071.6

The last few days have been rough, but my spirits are high! I apologize for not posting more frequently, cell service has been spotty.

On the 10th I stopped at Carter Gap Shelter – of the 10+ people there only two of us were under 50! (If you think you can’t hike, you can) The night was chilly, the morning was cut short after an emaciated dog shown up in camp. Another group of hikers made some phone calls and led him to shelter in Franklin, NC.

The next day I set off motivated and summited Albert Mountain, my drive was cut short by a spat of rain so I spent the night in Rock Gap Shelter. I met some interesting people at Rock, a Keto-crazy ultra runner named Posi for his positive attitude, Ponykeg and his hiking dog Blue Dream.

Today started off with a bang! In Rock Gap I got to meet AT Royalty – The Crawfords, a family of 8 who thru-hiked the trail last year. They made us delicious Blueberry Pancakes, really inspiring to meet such a famous group of hikers. I met up with Haymitch, Doc, Old School, and Logan in Winding Stair Gap. We all hiked together to the top of Wayah Mountain and are staying at Wayah Bald Shelter. It has definitely been a rough 3 days, but my legs and feet are feeling better, I’m inspired to keep going and soon conquer the Smokey’s! First we set off for Nantahala Outdoor Center tomorrow.

Day 5-7, March 7-9

Miles from Springer Mountain: 80.1

Miles to Mount Katahdin: 2111.0

I am one week down and one state down! Today I crossed the border into North Carolina, Georgia is no longer on my mind. The past few days have been very rainy, but thankfully the temperature has been above freezing. I feel a lot of accomplishment finally waving GA goodbye, now only 12 more states to go!

On day 6 I split a hotel room with 3 other guys who are thru-hiking, it wasn’t luxurious but the Holiday Inn in Hiawasee, GA was the perfect place to get clean, do laundry, resupply, and escape the rain. Hearing the thunderstorms last night made me thankful that we all weren’t out there.

Today I hiked 11.6 miles to Muskrat Creek Shelter, crossing the border along the way. The rain is continuing tonight, but hopefully won’t be as fierce. Tomorrow should be an easy day and I plan on levying the later sunset into a high-mileage day. My goal is to reach the 100 mile mark tomorrow!

Taking a nero (near-zero day) was what my mind and body needed to recharge, relax, and refresh. It was definitely a morale booster to get a full nights sleep and put on clean clothes.

This really neat tree was the first landmark I saw after crossing the border.

Thanks for all the support everyone, here’s to this next week on the AT!

Day Three & Four – March 5,6

Miles from Springer Mountain: 50.1

Miles to Mount Katahdin: 2141.9

Day three was quite eventful in both good and bad ways! I woke up to a chilly morning in Gooch Gap but was motivated to push on to some beautiful mountain views. About 4 miles in I ran into some Trail Magic in Woody gap, a small group of people were set up with a tent and a bus handing out bread and soup. They are part of a small community that considers themselves one of the new 12 tribes of Israel. Well, I wouldn’t give their bread to 5000 people, but the soup was heavenly!

I soldiered onward towards Blood Mountain, a beautiful, picturesque mountain with a challenging uphill and tumultuous downhill. It didn’t help that the rocks were icy and the wind would blow ice off the treetops.

I pushed on further towards Neel Gap, I knew there was a hostel there but my intentions were to continue on another mile to Blood Gap. I continued on past the hostel, searching for the campsites at the gap. I kept searching, but couldn’t find them. Toss it up to a little bit of dehydration and disorientation, but I shot way past Blood Gap. I knew I had gone too far about a mile after, but with the setting sun I had to continue.

2.5 miles after my intended target I stumbled upon a couple other tents, there was only 20 minutes of daylight left. I quickly threw up my tent, grabbed some water, and ate a small dinner. The night was the worst so far! It wasn’t the sheer cold temperature but the wind roaring through the gap that had me in fear. Thankfully my tent held true and did not falter. I kept warm by boiling water, placing it in my water bottle, then shoving inside my sleeping bag. It was quite the night.

The morning of Day Four was cold, but I knew that if I soldiered on and started walking then I would be ok. The movement would warm my body, my clothes, and my spirits. Fortunately today was uneventful. I am nestled in warmly in my tent next to Blue Mountain Shelter. With today came my first real accomplishment, 50 miles are done! Only 1/43 the way there!!

Day Two – March 4th

Miles from Springer Mountain: 17.1

Miles to Mountain Katahdin: 2174.9

The night was eventful! All the rain and snow did not make for an easy morning.

When I woke up for good all my clothes were frozen solid, the inside of my tent had frost, and snow was on the ground outside my tent. It was a miserable morning, I laid on top of my clothes to warm them up so that they were flexible enough to put on. I warmed up with coffee, but the best thing to do was to start walking! I got packed up slowly and got on the way. As the miles passed I felt warmer and warmer until I finally reached the other side of Justus Mountain when the temperature actually warmed up. The trees were no longer covered with ice and I felt comfortable without my hoods.

I reached Gooch Mountain Shelter about 2:30, but it was just high enough that the wind was mighty strong. The night ahead would be cold so I took heed of a trail veterans advice and proceeded further to Gooch Gap. Yes, you read that right, tonight I am sleeping in Gooch Gap!

I met three people at the Shelter – Captain Planet, Odie, and another beginning hiker. CP is a ATC Ridge Runner, patrolling the area and assisting hikers. Odie is the trail veteran who makes the Thru-Hiker Yearbook. We all met in Gooch Gap and rode to eat gas station pizza in Odie’s tricked out school bus.

After awhile we came back to Gooch Gap, warmed up in the bus, and talked with Wokman, another trail veteran. The night was colder than before, but thankfully there was no rain. At night I wore all my clothes, put thicker socks on my feet, and wore socks on my hands (to keep them from freezing). I was fairly warm for most of the night despite record colds in Northern Georgia.

I got to hang my bear bag for the first time! It is in the PCT style with a line through a carabiner, stopped by a stick with a clove hitch. Took a little practice, but I got it to work!

Here’s to a great day 3!

Day 1 – March 3rd

Body weight: 209 lbs

Pack weight: 31.8 lbs

I haven’t weighed this much in my life, almost 20 pounds since I left for Boot Camp! My pack weight was a little heavier than I anticipated because I threw in a little bit more food for safe measure.

Total miles walked: 16.2

Miles from Springer Mountain: 7.4

Miles to Mount Katahdin: 2184.6

I started my day on the approach trail at Amicalola Falls State Park, this took just under 4 hours by finally reaching Springer Mountain at 12:30. The approach trail was rocky and quite uphill!

On the top of Springer Mountain I reached the first white blaze and the plaque commemorating the Southern Terminus of the Appalachian Trail.

Unfortunately, at the top of the mountain it started to rain! The rain lasted for five hours and caused the trails to seem like streams. I finally reached my destination, the Hawk Mountain Campsites, around 5 PM when the rain stopped!

I set up my tent, got water from the spring, and finally settled in! I had Hikers Pad Thai for dinner. When I laid to rest I hung up all my clothes inside the tent and snuggled in for the cold, wet night. I woke up constantly due to the beating of the rain and the roar of the winds. The fierce wind sounded like 747’s taking off of the Georgia hills.

My first day was completely eventful and somewhat terrifying. I’ve finally started my trek to Maine and even the rain can’t stop me. I told myself over and over that it was all worth it, even warming up water just to hold the warm pot.

Thanks for your support, I’m finally on the Appalachian Trail!

Complete Gear Listing

LIVING

Gossamer Gear Gorilla 40L, 33.6 oz. (2017 Version)
Gossamer Gear The Two, w/ Stakes & Stuff Sack, 30 oz.
Black Diamond Ergo Cork Trekking Poles, 18 oz.
Enlightened Equipment Revelation, 20 oz. (Rated 30 Degrees)
Therma Rest Z Lite Sol, 14 oz.

COOKING

Pot/Bowl Combo: Snowpeak Mini Solo Cookset, 6.4 oz.
Spork: Snowpeak Titanium Spork, .6 oz.
Gas: MSR Butane, 4 oz.
Stove: MSR Pocket Rocket, 2.6 oz.
Water Bottle: Nalgene UL, 3.5 oz.
Water Reservoirs: Platypus 70 oz. & 34 oz.
Water Purifier: Aquafira Treatment (1 oz.) & Sawyer Squeeze (4 oz.)
Bic lighter (.7 oz.)
Stuff Sack (1 oz.)

HYGIENE/ FIRST AID

Towel: REI Lite Towel, Large, 6.1 oz.
Trowel: Vargo Dis, .6 oz.
First Aid Kit: 2.75 oz.
Insect Repellent: Jungle Juice, 3 oz.
Tooth Brush/Paste: Sensodyne, 3.7 oz.
Finger Nail Clippers: Small, .6 oz.
Hand Sanitizer:
Toilet Paper: 2 Rolls
Advil, 40 Count
Biotin, 40 Count
Men’s One-A-Day, 40 Count
Blistex, .3 oz.
Tick Key, .2 oz.
Body Glide, 2.6 oz.
Stuff Sack, 1 oz.

ELECTRONICS/LEISURE

Phone w/ case: Iphone X, 7.54 oz.
Charging Cable/Box: Amazon Tough Cable, 1.5 oz.
Headphones: Apple Headphones, .5 oz
Power Bank: Anker 20100, 12.5 oz.
Headlamp: Petzyl Actik, 3 oz.
Writing Pad/Utensil: Small Notebook w/ Pen, 6.6 oz.
Book(s):
Knife: Opinel No. 10, 2.5 oz.
Paracord: 550 Paracord 30′, 2.5 oz.
Duct Tape:
Sunglasses: Warby Parker, 23.1 oz.
AT Guidebook: 2019 Northbound A.T. Guide, 8.3 oz.
Stuff Sack: Sea to Summit 4L, 1 oz.

CLOTHING

Hiking Shirt Long Sleeve: Patagonia Capilene Zip Neck, 4 oz.
Hiking Shirt Short Sleeve: Patagonia Nine Trails T Shirt, 2.7 oz.
Hiking Pants: Patagonia Quandary Pants, 10 oz.
Hiking Socks: Darn Tough Hiking Socks, 4 oz.
Hiking Shoes: Asics Gel Scram 4, 23.1 oz.
Jacket: Patagonia Down Jacket w/ Hood, 15.1 oz.
Rain Jacket: Patagonia Houdini, 3.3 oz.
Underwear: Adidas Climalite Boxer Briefs, 2.3 oz.
Gloves: Outdoor Research Versaliner
Camp Shirt: Cubs Short Sleeve
Camp Shorts: Brooks Running Shorts
Camp Shoe: XeroShoes Mens 11, 14.8 oz.
Camp Socks: Smartwool Socks, 4 oz.
Hat: Cubs ’47 Hat, 3 oz.
Leggings: Nike Drifit Leggings 4 oz.
Stuff Sack: Sea to Summit 20L, 2.5 oz.

https://lighterpack.com/r/fvwlxb


Hiking Plan – Prior to Start

The listing below is a simple, non-rigid hiking plan starting on March 3rd, constructed as a guideline to give myself an understanding of places I can meet people, how many days off I can take to reach my goal, and a baseline to plan for sleeping accommodations. This plan below hovers around the 20 miles per day hiking plan, which is my goal. There are no break (zero) days listed and few days with less than 10 miles. This will serve as a simple guide, my daily hiking plan will change drastically, take the below with a grain of salt.

Goal start date: March 3rd
Goal end date: July 6th

Plan start date: March 3rd
Plan end date: June 24th

Georgia:
March 3rd – START, hike 8.1 miles to Hawk Mountain Shelter
March 4th – hike 15.8 miles to Lance Creek Campsites
March 5th – hike 22.7 miles to Low Gap Shelter
March 6th – hike 13.4 miles to Cheese Factory Site (alt. 2 miles more to Tray Mountain Shelter)
March 7th – hike 17.5 miles to Plumorchard Gap Shelter (alt. 2.3 miles more to Wheeler Knob campsite)
March 8th – hike 4.4 out of Georgia

North Carolina:
March 8th – hike 15.4 miles to Carter Gap Shelter
March 9th – hike 12.1 miles to Rock Gap Shelter
March 10th – hike 14.8 miles to Wayah Shelter
March 11th – hike 15.5 miles to A. Rufus Morgan Shelter
March 12th – hike 1.8 miles to grocery store, resupply, hike 16.2 miles to Brown Fork Gap Shelter
March 13th – hike 12.8 miles to Fontana Dam Shelter

Great Smoky Mountains National Park:
March 14th – enter park, hike 14.8 miles to Russell Field Shelter (alt. 2.9 miles more to Spence Field Shelter)
March 15th – hike 16.4 miles to Double Spring Gap Shelter
March 16th – hike13.7 miles to Icewater Spring Shelter
March 17th – hike 20.3 miles to Cosby Knob Shelter
March 18th – hike 8 miles to exit park, hike 2.4 miles to Standing Bear Farm Hostel

Tennessee/North Carolina Border:
March 19th – hike 15.5 miles to Roaring Fork Shelter
March 20th – hike 14.7 miles to Deer Park Mountain Shelter
March 21st – hike 3.2 miles to Hot Springs, N.C., resupply, relax for the day, stay in Hostel at Laughing Heart Lodge
March 22nd – hike 19.6 miles to Little Laurel Shelter
March 23rd – hike 22.8 miles to Hogback Ridge Shelter
March 24th – hike 20.7 miles to No Business Knob Shelter
March 25th – hike 23.3 miles to Cherry Gap Shelter
March 26th – hike 17.6 miles to Roan High Knob Shelter

Tennessee:
March 27th – hike 15.6 miles to Wilder Mine Hollow Group Campsite
March 28th – hike 19.1 miles to Moreland Gap Shelter
March 29th – hike 24 miles to Vandeventer Shelter
March 30th – hike 22.7 miles to Abingdon Gap Shelter
March 31st – hike 6.5 miles, enter Virginia, hike 3.5 miles, enter Damascus for the night to resupply

Miles Hiked in March: 470.1; AVG – 16.2 miles per day

Southwest Virginia:
April 1st – hike 16 miles to Lost Mountain Shelter
April 2nd – hike 23.5 miles to Old Orchard Shelter
April 3rd – hike 23.9 miles to Partnership Shelter
April 4th – hike 26.3 miles to Knot Maul Branch Shelter
April 5th – hike 20.1 miles to Jenkins Shelter
April 6th – hike 23.2 miles to Jenny Knob Shelter
April 7th – hike 14.5 miles to Wapiti Shelter

Central Virginia:
April 8th – resupply in Pearisburg, hike 25.6 miles to Rice Field Shelter
April 9th – hike 25.3 miles to War Spur Shelter
April 10th – hike 18.2 miles to Niday Shelter
April 11th – hike 23.7 miles to Johns Spring Shelter
April 12th – hike 23.8 miles to Fullhardt Knob Shelter
April 13th – hike 20 miles to Cove Mountain Shelter
April 14th – hike 17.2 miles to Thunder Hill Shelter
April 15th – hike 25.1 miles to Punchbowl Shelter
April 16th – hike 25.3 miles to Seeley-Woodworth Shelter
April 17th – hike 20.4 miles to Maupin Field Shelter
April 18th – resupply in Reids Gap, VA, hike 15.8 miles to Paul C. Wolfe Shelter

Shenandoah:
April 19th – hike 12.7 miles to Calf Mountain Shelter
April 20th – hike 20.4 miles to Loft Mountain Campground
April 21st – hike 14 miles to Hightop Hut
April 22nd – hike 23.9 miles to Rock Spring Hut
April 23rd – hike 24.8 miles to Matthew Arms Campground

Northern Virginia:
April 24th – hike 22.2 miles to Jim & Molly Denton Shelter
April 25th – hike 20.3 miles to Rod Hollow Shelter
April 26th – hike 21.1 miles to David Lesser Memorial Shelter

West Virginia – No overnight stops, Resupply in Harpers Ferry, W. VA,

Maryland:
April 27th – hike 12.2 miles to Harpers Ferry Hostel
April 28th – hike 20 miles to Pine Knob Shelter
April 29th – hike 13.1 miles to Raven Rock Shelter

Pennsylvania:
April 30th – hike 19.8 miles to Rocky Mountain Shelters

Miles hiked in April: 595.6 Miles; AVG 19.8 miles a day

May 1st – hike 19.2 miles to Toms Run Shelter
May 2nd – hike 22.4 miles to Backpackers’ Campsite
May 3rd – hike 22.1 miles to Cove Mountain Shelter
May 4th – resupply in Duncannon, PA, hike 15 miles to Peters Mountain Shelter
May 5th – hike 18 miles to Rausch Gap Shelter
May 6th – hike 23.1 miles to Hertlein Campsite
May 7th – hike 24.2 miles to Windsor Furnace Shelter
May 8th – hike 22.4 miles to New Tripoli Campsite
May 9th – hike 10.9 miles to George W. Outerbridge Shelter
May 10th – hike 16.7 miles to Leroy A. Smith Shelter

New Jersey:
May 11th – hike 24.9 miles to Backpackers Campsite
May 12th – hike 20 miles to Brink Shelter
May 13th – hike 19.6 miles to High Point Shelter
May 14th – hike 23.9 miles to Wawayanda Shelter

New York:
May 15th – resupply in Greenwood Lake, NY, hike 12.1 miles to Wildcat Shelter
May 16th – hike 22.8 miles to West Mountain Shelter
May 17th – hike 9.2 miles to Hemlock Springs Campsite
May 18th – hike 23 miles to RPH Shelter
May 19th – hike 25.6 miles to Wiley Shelter

Connecticut:
May 20th – hike 19.7 miles to Stewart Hollow Brook Shelter
May 21st – hike 21.3 miles to Limestone Spring Shelter

Massachusetts:
May 22nd – hike 17.1 miles to Glen Brook Shelter
May 23rd – hike 21.4 miles to Mt. Wilcox North Shelter
May 24th – hike 22.8 miles to October Mountain Shelter
May 25th – hike 16.5 miles to Crystal Mountain Campground
May 26th – resupply at Cheshire, MA, hike 15.8 miles to Wilbur Clearing Shelter

Vermont:
May 27th – hike 23 miles to Melville Nauheim Shelter
May 28th – hike 17.4 miles to Story Spring Shelter
May 29th – hike 23.1 miles to Bromley Shelter
May 30th – hike 22.6 miles to Greenwall Shelter
May 31st – hike 23.6 miles to Churchill Scott Shelter

Miles hiked in May: 634.3 miles; AVG 20.46

June 1st – hike 21.8 miles to Winturri Shelter
June 2nd – hike 21.1 miles to Happy Hill Shelter

New Hampshire:
June 3rd – resupply in Hanover, NH, hike 22.5 miles to Trapper John Shelter
June 4th – hike 19.1 miles to Ore Hill Campsite
June 5th – hike 24.5 miles to Eliza Brook Shelter
June 6th – hike 24.6 miles to Guyot Shelter
June 7th – hike 23 miles to Lakes of the Clouds Hut
June 8th – hike 20.8 miles to Carter Notch Hut
June 9th – hike 22.1 miles to Trident Col Tentsite

Maine:
June 10th – hike 19.6 miles to Speck Pond Shelter
June 11th – hike 20.9 miles to Hall Mountain Lean-To
June 12th – hike 21.1 miles to Sabbath Day Pond Lean-To
June 13th – hike 20.1 miles to Poplar Ridge Lean-To
June 14th – hike 23.4 miles to Cranberry Stream Campsite
June 15th – hike 21.1 miles to West Carry Pond Lean-To
June 16th – hike 14.3 miles to Caratunk, ME to resupply & Hostel
June 17th – hike 18.8 miles to Moxie Bald Lean-To
June 18th – hike 20.9 miles to Leeman Brook Lean-To
June 19th – hike 23 miles to Chairback Gap Lean-To
June 20th – hike 20.7 miles to East Branch Lean-To
June 21st – hike 23.8 miles to Nahmakanta Stream Lean-to
June 22nd – hike 17.7 miles to Rainbow Spring Campsite
June 23rd – hike 21.1 miles to The Birches Campsite
June 24th – hike 5.2 miles to Mt. Katahdin Peak, FINISH

Miles hiked in June: 490.9; AVG: 20.4 miles per day

Started from Springer Mountain, GA: March 3rd
Finish at Mt. Katahdin: June 24th
Days until weekend after July 4th: 12

Mcafee Knob Part 2

Two and a half years after my first hike up Mcafee Knob I was ready to do it again, but this time I was much more prepared. Preparation was key to making my second adventure a much more thorough, enjoyable, and complete experience.

My girlfriend, Haley, and I decided that we were going to hike to the top of Mcafee Knob and camp on the other side, just as I had done previously. However, by this past September, I had already started purchasing equipment for my AT hike, so my gear inventory was large enough to make this camp out much more successful. Most rewardingly that meant we did not have to stay another cold night in my Hammock.

We got everything packed up, supplied at Lidl the night before and set off for our hike extremely early in the morning. Early enough that we got to see the sun rise off the Hampton Bay as we crossed the Hampton Road Bridge Tunnel (google it, weird piece of engineering). We arrived at the trailhead, fought for a parking spot, and embarked on our hike. Haley kicked ass on the way up. I had some frame of reference to how far along we were, but I was still fighting through the pain.

We made it to the top after a two hour hike and the view was captivating. The sky was clear, the fauna green, and the wind calm – it was as beautiful as ever. Haley and I got plenty of photos, met a few other adventurers, and prepared for the second part of our trek.

We set off on another mile hike to our camp spot, but thankfully all of it was downhill. We arrived at a flat area of land, about 30 square yards, and set up my tent along with a few others who were also camping there for the night. It was the first night in the flesh that I had stayed in the tent so I was relieved that the set up went flawless. Next, we started on our Hobo Dinner! It was the first time Haley had eaten it, but I gained experience cooking it while I was a camp counselor. The meal was delicious.

Even with my tent and sleeping bag, I made one egregious miscalculation – we didn’t bring enough blankets. The night was cold and hard on the flat ground, but it was a real life example of cuddling for warmth. We kept warm, but it was a restless night. The weather wasn’t ideal for sleeping outside, the temperature dipped a little low at night, but our real struggle was the rocky ground. A couple more blankets would have been sufficient to buffer the bumps and rocks against our backs.

The next morning we woke up, ate a breakfast consisting of eggs, bacon, and hash browns all cooked over the fire. We begrudgingly cleaned up our site and prepared for the long hike back. The trowel got practice at this point. (he he). The clean up was a good lesson in leaving no trace, comfortable packing, and hike back preparation. Thankfully we had plenty of water.

The hike back started out rough, all the downhill hiking from the day before was paid back to us with an arduous steep uphill one mile hike back to the Knob. On the hike back we ran into a couple great friends who were on their way up to the top! Our return trek was shortened by taking a side trail with less hills that helped our aching backs. After another two hour hike we we arrived at the car and prepared to drive back to Norfolk.

I knew I would be back when I first climbed Mcafee Knob, but I had no idea I would be able to hike it with the love of my life. Life is truly enjoyed in the beauty of nature with the ones you love. I’ve been able to take a pause from the daily grind and enjoy Virginia’s beautiful landscape with some of my life’s greatest peoples and I will forever enjoy it. I know that when I am able to climb Mcafee Knob while hiking the Trail this year, I will enjoy it so much more. I will have the memories of my previous hikes and the joy of knowing I’m almost halfway through my hike.

Mcafee Knob Part 1

On the western side of Virginia not too far from Virginia Tech is a beautiful overlook named Mcafee Knob. It is a 1/2 open perch about 20 yards wide that showcases the beautiful hilly Virginia landscape. As you gaze into the miles of open sky the stone slabs hold you up 30 above the wood floor. To get to the Knob is a 4 mile trek from Route 311, it is a mild hike that plenty of families do. Along the way you can experience the beautiful outdoors and see plenty of other faces as they try to (or already have) accomplish the same goal you do.

The first time I went to the Knob was in March 2016. I had heard about it from a few of my Navy friends, some had camped nearby the fall before. We planned the hike to leave on an early Saturday, I gathered up what little supplies I had at the time which consisted of a simple pack, a few blankets, and my hammock – I was not prepared. We met in the parking lot of a friends apartment, stuffed in a car, and took off. The 4 hour drive from Norfolk to the trailhead was interrupted by a Waffle House visit and supply run.

By the time we arrived at the trailhead we were all ecstatic to start – 4 friends stuffed in a car together for a few hours anticipating an awesome night of camping. The hike was hard work, but we made it with only a few spills and falls. We hiked for a couple hours, enjoyed the Knob for 30 minutes then hiked on past and set up camp. I was not ready for the cold.

We joked around, enjoyed ourselves, set up a fire, cooked dinner, tried to axe a tree (didn’t work), and shared plenty of stories. I froze the whole night in my hammock, it was the first night I had ever spent in it and I was not prepared. But it was one hell of a night, I had a great night with my friends enjoying the beautiful views and enjoying the outdoors.

I knew when I was standing on the ledge of Mcafee Knob that I would be back to this spot again. It was breathtaking – quite literally at some points because of the wind. I loved where I was, who I was with, and the work it took to get there. I knew I would be back.

Clothing

Hiking Shirt Long Sleeve: Patagonia Capilene Zip Neck, 4 oz.
Hiking Shirt Short Sleeve: Patagonia Nine Trails T Shirt, 2.7 oz.
Hiking Pants: Patagonia Quandary Pants, 10 oz.
Hiking Socks: Darn Tough Hiking Socks, 4 oz.
Hiking Shoes: Asics Gel Scram 4, 23.1 oz.
Jacket: Patagonia Down Jacket w/ Hood, 15.1 oz.
Rain Jacket: Patagonia Houdini, 3.3 oz.
Underwear: Adidas Climalite Boxer Briefs, 2.3 oz.
Gloves: Outdoor Research Versaliner
Camp Shirt: Cubs Short Sleeve
Camp Shorts: Brooks Running Shorts
Camp Shoe: XeroShoes Mens 11, 14.8 oz.
Camp Socks: Smartwool Socks, 4 oz.
Hat: Cubs ’47 Hat, 3 oz.
Leggings: Nike Drifit Leggings 4 oz.
Stuff Sack: Sea to Summit 20L, 2.5 oz.

This list comprises a mixture of my cold weather, warm weather, and camp gear.

I know it seems like a lot of Patagucci (Patagonia), but this was intentional. I’ve been planning this hike for the last few years, so I was able to save up quite a bit of money for equipment. This meant that I was able to spend a little bit more up front when it comes to quality. Patagonia has great return policies, they are environmentally conscious, and just great looking, comfortable clothes, so I had no problem buying their items because I know I will be able to wear them long after my hike.

It may seem like this isn’t much clothes to wear for a 3-4 month trek, but clothing is a great way to save weight in the long run. I don’t need to carry what I won’t be wearing. The only thing I may throw in is another pair of shorts, socks, and underwear halfway through.

Temperature isn’t one of my big worries, but to combat it I have included the coat, gloves, and leggings just in case. These items I will be able to ship back or give to Haley when they are no longer needed. I plan on retaining the pants to alternate with the shorts depending on how I feel.

The cotton shirt and camp shoes are purely for comfort so I can relax a little with some less tight clothing while in camp. If my trusty Cubs hat can’t make it through I’ll pick another out of any store I see along the way.

If I do have any worry so far it is the shoes I will wear along my hike. I’m worried about getting 100 miles in and being extremely uncomfortable with the shoes I’m wearing. Shoes are expensive and I don’t know how many or little it will take to find a shoe to fit me perfectly. I don’t want feet troubles to be my biggest limit on the trail. *** I found my shoes – Asics Gel-Scram 4. They are comfortable and I’m putting practice miles on them now.

My First Appalachian Trail Experience

The first time I ever stepped foot onto the Appalachian Trail was in 2014. A friend and I decided spontaneously that we were going to hike at least some small part of it. Within about 3 days we met, decided where we were going, borrowed some gear from our youth pastor, and were driving 10 hours to the eastern seaboard from northern Indiana.

We headed to a 30ish mile stretch just south of Harpers Ferry, MD. For first timers it was tumultuous. We didn’t know it, but the trail just ahead of us was nicknamed The Roller Coaster, a 15 mile stretch of constant ups and downs, hundreds of feet of incline and decline.

We stayed in a shanty the first night, only a mile from our car – we didn’t want to stress ourselves out. The next day we embarked on The Roller Coaster, the most extraneous walk I had ever been through up to that point. It was a day long adventure of water breaks, chafing, and questioning how much longer. We finished and stayed at a hostel atop the mountainous Coaster. We met this lovely woman – a professor from some University in Ohio, she never told us her name, but she took us in for the evening buying us ice cream, giving us advice, and just getting to know us.

The next day we embarked with only a few miles left before we would arrive in Harpers Ferry. Along the way a young Lithuanian man runs up to us exclaiming how happy he was to have found us! He had heard about us through some other hikers we had previously passed, wanting to talk to us to hear about our experience and get to know us – never got his name either.

We finished in beautiful Harpers Ferry getting the experience of a lifetime, I was hooked. It was arduous, tiring, and painful, but it was the unique reward of success that I had never felt. I made a vow that this experience would not be my last time on the Appalachian Trail.

Pack

Gossamer Gear Gorilla 40L, 33.6 oz. (2017 Version)

I used this pack on my Mcafee Knob hike, it was comfortable carrying 25+ pounds. Completely breathable and supportive for my back. Grabbing water out of the side pockets is easy.

During preparation for my hike, everything has fit smoothly into the pack. There is plenty of space and plenty of good compartments to separate things. When not using my trekking poles there is plenty of space to put them in the side pocket. My only complaint so far would be the hip pockets are further back on the straps so reaching for them can be a little hard.

I love this pack due to its weight and price. It has some great reviews and is well used on all trails. I intend to do a comprehensive review at the end of my hike.

Reviews:
https://www.outdoorgearlab.com/reviews/camping-and-hiking/ultralight-backpack/gossamer-gear-gorilla
https://thetrek.co/review-gossamer-gear-gorilla-40l-pack/


Nutrition

Stuff Sack: Sea to Summit 13L

Breakfast:
Instant Oatmeal
Belvita Breakfast Biscuits
Pop-Tarts (maybe)
Instant Coffee Packets

Lunch:
Bagels and Salami
Crackers and Cheese
Tortillas and Meat
Chicken Salad Wraps

Dinner:
Ramen Noodles
Mac N’ Cheese Packet

Snacks:
Beef Jerky
Trail Mix
Energy Bars
Sunflower Seeds
Propel Powder Packets
Honey Stinger Waffles
Powdered Peanut Butter

Extras:
Salt and Pepper Packets
Sriracha Packets
Soy Sauce Packets

The picture listed below is just a sampling, a small piece of what I will be carrying when I set off. I’m trying to avoid eating complete crap on a daily basis, but I have also tried to select foods that will be available widely at all trail towns. When I can I will eat fresh fruit and enjoy small farmer’s markets.

One of the highlights of being able to stay in hostels is that most provide a meal with the base price, a luxury I will not pass up!

Electronics/Accessories/Extras

Electronics

Phone w/ case: Iphone X, 7.54 oz.
Charging Cable/Box: Amazon Tough Cable, 1.5 oz.
Headphones: Apple Headphones, .5 oz
Power Bank: Anker 20100, 12.5 oz.
Headlamp: Petzyl Actik, 3 oz.

Leisure

Writing Pad/Utensil: Small Notebook w/ Pen, 6.6 oz.
Book(s): Various, no more than 10 oz.

Extras

Knife: Opinel No. 10, 2.5 oz.
Duct Tape: Wrapped around Hand Sanitizer, about ~7 feet
Sunglasses: Warby Parker Lowry, 5.6 oz.
AT Guidebook: 2019 Northbound A.T. Guide, 8.3 oz.
Stuff Sack: Sea to Summit 4L, 1 oz.

I’ve had many questions about phone use on the trail – whether I’ll have service, how I will recharge, and is it even useful. Almost all points of the trail are within cell phone service or within a few miles of service – it’s 2019 and even the Appalachian Trail is within range of cell phone towers. My phone will have a PDF version of my AT Guide and will be helpful to locate towns to resupply. The power bank is the best rated one I could find for its price.

One weight saving tactic I used is that the charger and the headlamp both use the same cable, I’ll be able to use the charging box to charge all my electronics. The headlamp is USB charged, which made it more expensive, but lighter and easier to handle (no batteries).

Haley gave me an awesome gift in preparation for my hike – a small, leather bound notebook that I’ll be able to use to write and take notes. This with a weatherproof pen will be able to hold up the elements throughout the entirety of my hike. I plan on bringing small books to read along the hike, as I finish them I’ll be able to swap out when Haley comes to visit.

The Opinel Knife is sturdy, foldable, and lightweight. It’s about a 4 inch blade, so it will be useful in many aspects – I purposely avoided a Swiss Army knife, the blades are too small. Paracord will be useful to hang my food on trees away from the campsite, combined with a rodent proof bag I shouldn’t encounter any problems with keeping my food safe.

I haven’t decided how much duct tape I will bring, or how I will store it, but it obviously has many uses. My plan for now is to wrap a good amount on a pill bottle for any time use. I’m not a typical sunglass user, but I figure for comfort in the summer months when I am outside all day – the weight and cost are worth it.

Two guidebooks are crucial to my success on the hike – the official Appalachian Trail Conservancy guidebook (thanks Paul and Brenda!!) and the AWOL Guidebook. The ATC is a little too large to carry, but it will be in reserve for use when Haley visits. The AWOL Guidebook is the most popular guide and is completely invaluable.

Everything above will be stuffed into a waterproof stuff sack – this bag will be my first selection when it comes to leaving something behind due to weight (I don’t anticipate this problem). All these items are here to enhance my hike both in leisure and walking.

Toiletries/Hygiene

Towel: REI Lite Towel, Large, 6.1 oz.
Trowel: Vargo Dis, .6 oz.
First Aid Kit: 2.75 oz.
Insect Repellent: Jungle Juice, 3 oz.
Tooth Brush/Paste: Brush (Cut in Half), .3 oz. Sensodyne, 3.7 oz.
Floss: .3 oz.
Finger Nail Clippers: Small, .6 oz.
Hand Sanitizer: 3.4 oz.
Toilet Paper: 2 Rolls, 8 oz.

Meds:
Advil, 40 Count, .9 oz.
Biotin, 40 Count, .5 oz.
Men’s One-A-Day, 40 Count, 2.7 oz.

Others:
Blistex, .3 oz.
Tick Key, .2 oz.
Body Glide, 2.6 oz.
Stuff Sack, 1 oz.

If there is one area in which I’m not limiting myself and have no restrictions for weight it is the hygiene and toiletries list. I’m not a clean freak or germaphobe, but I understand the clear importance of maintaining a clean and hygienic lifestyle when living outdoors for months on end. I’ve made item choices that will be easy to replace in a town or when Haley visits.

A question I often get is “How will you go to the bathroom?”. Well that answer is a combination of outhouses, town stops, and a trowel and toilet paper. If a clean or semi-clean toilet isn’t available, I’ll be taking my talents to the great outdoors.

Sunscreen and bug repellent are an easy inclusion, both will serve me more the further I get into the hike as I get into warmer and wetter climates. The first-aid kit has a myriad of different objects…

These medications are to help supplement nutrition while being in the middle of the woods, I know I won’t be getting my normal vitamin intake so I made sure to include a little extra boost.

Everything will be stuffed inside the stuff sack for easy use – I imagine this will be a go-to bag after getting the tent set-up and relaxing for the night.

Cooking System

Pot/Bowl Combo: Snowpeak Mini Solo Cookset, 6.4 oz.
Spork: Snowpeak Titanium Spork, .6 oz.
Gas: MSR Butane, 4 oz.
Stove: MSR Pocket Rocket, 2.6 oz.
Water Bottle: Nalgene UL, 3.5 oz.
Water Reservoirs: Platypus 70 oz. & 34 oz.
Water Purifier: Aquafira Treatment (1 oz.) & Sawyer Squeeze (4 oz.)
Paracord: 550 Paracord 30′, 2.5 oz.

Also included… Bic lighter (.7 oz.) and Stuff Sack (1 oz.) to hold everything

This cooking system is pretty popular set-up from previous hikers – it’s a nice combination of light weight, but reliable equipment. It’s simple – not too much, not too little.

I have experience with my stove set-up and it hasn’t failed me yet, water boils quickly and the pots are easy to clean.

I’ve included a Ultralite Nalgene – uncommon for most hikers, but Nalgene bottles have worked for my consistently for years. I’m dedicated because they work, so I’m willing to add a couple ounces (over a gatorade/smart water bottle).
I have two water purifying systems – the Sawyer Squeeze will be my primary and the Aquafira Treatment pills as backup. The biggest downside to the pills is that they take 20+ minutes before the water is safe to drink, in previous experience I haven’t tasted the off flavors that some people experience with the pills.

Sleeping

Enlightened Equipment Revelation, 20 oz. (Rated 30 Degrees)
Therma Rest Z Lite Sol, 14 oz.

The EE Revelation is a quilt, so instead of zipping to the top like a standard sleeping bag, it only has a couple buttons and sinch straps to tighten it around your body. Used with the sleeping pad it is a lightweight, heat saving alternative to the standard bag set-up.

I decided to only go as low as 30 Degrees for my quilt, I won’t be experiencing temperatures below 30, with only a slight chance at the beginning. The benefit of using a quilt is that during the summer months I can only use it when necessary based on night time temperatures.

The Therma Rest is a little bulky, but it will provide great relief for my back on the ground. It can also be used as a seat during quick stops. The main reason I made this purchase was due to the cost/weight ratio. The more comfortable options are just too expensive.

Reviews:
https://www.outdoorgearlab.com/reviews/camping-and-hiking/ultralight-sleeping-bag/enlightened-equipment-revelation-20
https://gearjunkie.com/enlightened-equipment-revelation-quilt-review

https://backpackers.com/outdoor-gear/therm-a-rest/sleeping-pads/z-lite-sol/therm-a-rest-z-lite-sol-review/


Tent

Gossamer Gear The Two, w/ Stakes & Stuff Sack, 30 oz.
Black Diamond Ergo Cork Trekking Poles, 18 oz.

Easily the most expensive purchase of all my gear. I am ok with sacrificing a few extra ounces to get some extra breathing space – it’s perfect to relax in, with all my gear comfortably next to me. Setting it up is a breeze, two people is great, but I’ve done it with ease by myself. The tent requires my trekking poles to set up – each is propped up on either side and serve as the anchors for the entire tent. For simple securing only 6 stakes are needed, 4 on each side and 2 for each atrium.

I don’t plan on using a footprint, however I know that I will have to be very selective in my set-up location. I’m debating on whether to take the guylines or not, at the very least they will be in reserve.

I’ve spent only a couple nights in the tent, so I intend to do a more comprehensive review either half way or at the completion of the hike. So far I am impressed, but I’m sure my opinion will be seasoned after a few nights of wind, rain, and other elements.

Reviews:
https://bustedwallet.com/gossamer-gear-the-two-gear-review/
https://just2hikers.wordpress.com/2017/12/21/review-of-gossamer-gear-the-two-tent/

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