Ed will begin blogging about his adventures on the Appalachian Trail soon!
The AT and what it’s all about
The Appalachian Trail is one of the longest continuously marked footpath in the world, measuring roughly 2,180 miles in length. White painted squares called ‘blazes’ are painted on trees every 100 yards or so throughout the trail. It is pretty much impossible to get lost as long as you follow the blazes.
So what is so intriguing about the AT? Why do people attempt such a long and difficult trip knowing that only 25% make it all the way? These are questions I get asked all the time and they are tough to answer. There is something about nature that is always calling to me, beckoning me to venture out of the comfort of my home. I know, weird huh? But seriously, if I don’t go camping at least once a month, I get restless. The thing is, we are surrounded by technology that creates sensory overload; cell phones, computers, radio, TV… All of that is just too much and my brain begs for a detox! There is no better detox for the senses than a hike through nature. John Muir nailed it when he said:
“Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out going to the mountains is going home; that wilderness is a necessity…” – John Muir
When I read that quote, I was like “That is so true!” Nature does have this ability to heal, cleanse and change. For example, there are many Iraq war veterans that are hiking the AT and the Pacific Crest Trail to get over PTSD. Backpacker magazine had a great article on that topic several months ago. I see nature as God’s gift to man kind, a gift that can heal the most broken of spirits.
I decided to pursue this endeavor for many reasons. There is no one reason for me going out into the wild because the AT has a lot to offer. Some of my motives for the AT are as follows:
Gain more self confidence and inner strength by venturing out into the unknown.
Test my character by experiencing the elements, whatever they may be.
Experience the healing power of nature.
Spend some time and reflect on life.
“When we contemplate the whole globe as one great dewdrop, striped and dotted with continents and islands, flying through space with other stars all singing and shining together as one, the whole universe appears as an infinite storm of beauty… No synonym for God is so perfect as Beauty. Whether as seen carving the lines of the mountains with glaciers, or gathering matter into stars, or planning the movements of water, or gardening – still all is Beauty!” – John Muir
Starting the AT tomorrow!
I can’t believe I am officially leaving tomorrow morning. This is kinda crazy because I never thought this day would finally arrive. The thing is, when I started planning this trip 6 months ago, that is all I did; plan. Now the stage of planning is officially over and it is now time to dive head long into this endeavor.
The idea is to keep everyone posted with weekly updates on my whereabouts. I’ll be doing everything from my iphone so please excuse my typos and weird writing errors. If you read something totally confusing and all you can say is “huh?!” then understand that it isn’t my fault. I am blaming auto-correct ahead of time.
My start point is Table Rock, SC. From there I will be hiking down to Georgia using the Foothills trail followed by the Bartram Trail. You might be wondering why? Well, simply because the Palmetto area is so fantastic! I have hiked portions of the Foothills trail but not the whole thing. This approach has only been done by a handful of people and I would love to be one of them. No worries, it will only add about a week to my overall trip, which isn’t bad at all.
Um, I think that is about it for a last post. Keep me in your prayers people and God Bless!
I’m still alive people!
Hey everyone! I’m hanging out at the Blueberry Patch Hostel today, man is this place amazing. The hostel is truly a gem in the middle of the wilderness, but more on it later.
Saturday my parents showed up and picked up the dog. Hiking with Olive was fun, but it’s hard to take care of someone other than myself so… Olive went home. The plan was to hitch-hike the rest of the way to Springer because there are no other trails directly to Springer Mountain. When mom heard my plan to hitch-hike, she was horrified. Her ultimatum was either they give me a ride or I go home. I took the ride which was nice and quick.
I started in Amicalola Falls. This is the 8 mile approach trail that everyone takes. It’s not bad but it is a steep trail.
Going up the trail, I came across a guy who was finishing his Southbound hike. The guy started in Maine in August for a simple week hike. He liked the trail so much that he simply kept going for the next 7 months! Wow, hiking through in the middle of winter is incredibly hard. Well, I eventually made it to the starting point.
There were around 30 hikers camping up top which was pretty neat. As for places to sleep, there are loads of great camping areas. I simply couldn’t say no to this 2 story shelter that I came across. Sleeping in the top story reminded me of hanging out in a tree house when I was a kid. It was simply awesome! Luckily I had no issues with mice. They are very problematic at other shelters.
The people that I met here are so interesting. Slow Poke was named by his wife. He is a retired Vietnam Vet with some very interesting stories. Another guy named Canada was named because he came from there a couple days ago. The energy and positive vibe that everyone gives off is simply incredible.
The next day I went to Gooch Shelter. Everyone scattered their tents along the hillside around the shelter. In the mean time we hung out at the shelter and had a grand time talking and laughing. There were these two ladies that had no clue how to operate their cooking stove. A guy showed them how to turn it on and the lady took her pot, with the rubber cozy on it, and set it on the flames! Haha that was entertaining. What I’m getting at is this, some folks simply aren’t prepared at all. Guys, so much has happened on the AT and I don’t want to bore you with the details, so I’ll try to keep it short. So, what is life like out here on the AT? Lots of hiking, super awesome people, always thinking about food, always talking about food with people, the people out here are incredibly nice, and I’ve come across people from all over the world who are walking with me. They are what make the AT a fun experience.
Some highlights on the trail:
– I came across a guy whose trail name is Fresh Ground and he was doing trail magic outside Gooch Shelter. It was amazing! Fresh pancakes, fries, cookies, hot dogs, omelettes… He had it all. There was a hiker there pouring about 6 tablespoons of sugar into his coffee. He said “this will power me through these crazy mountains!” We couldn’t believe it, so I dubbed him Sugar Crush. Everyone loved it, so it stuck with him.
– I slept on top of Troy Mountain in 15* weather. There were crazy wind gusts all night. It was so cold I had to use my emergency blanket. Rough night. Next morning, I ate breakfast and as soon as I walked down the trail, more trail magic!!! Ben was grilling cheeseburgers, So I ate 2 with a Mountain Dew. Keep in mind this was right after 2 cups of oatmeal, cliff bar, and coffee. My hiker appetite has definitely kicked in. If you haven’t caught on, trail magic is when people make magic happen on the trail. And by “magic”, I mean food.
– I sneezed 20+ times one day, personal record. I passed a field where every bit of pollen gravitated into my nose. I stopped counting after 20 because I thought I was going to die haha!
– My new trail name is Spider-Man. They named me Spider-Man because I rock climb and do pull-ups every morning at the shelters haha. I love it!
Below are some photos that I’ve taken so far. Enjoy and I’ll keep you updated.
Operation GA was a success!
Hey guys, it has been a looong week for me. There is so much going on out here everyday that it is impossible to get bored. During the last post I was at BlueBerry Patch Hostel. What an amazing place. Honestly, if for some reason I had to stop my hike at BlueBerry (injury), I would have been happy with it. But its a good thing I’m still pushing onward. The first couple weeks out here was such an adventure because of the community of people out here. Every day I get to meet some of the most interesting individuals from all walks of life. So with that said, I’ll spend some time introducing you to my trail family while I give you a quick weekly overview.
As soon as I walked into NC, things changed quickly. I’m talking about the terrain. It was as if NC was saying, “Oh, you came from GA? Well that’s cute. Put on your big boy pants because this aignt no picnic!” The NC mountains are so much steeper than GA by a long shot. Walking out of NOC, nantahala outdoor center, we were treated to an uphill climb of 5,000 feet for 4 miles. It was like walking up a stair case for hours. But the view is always worth it.
There was a couple days when it was pouring rain all day and night. Those days suck because everything eventually gets wet. After a couple cold days of rain, I quickly threw up my bear bag and got into my tent. Some of the guys had a kick out of my bear bag that I strung up in the tree and we had some good laughs about it.
I have been leap frogging with a couple of people the past 2 weeks. Leap Frogging is when you pass somebody one day. Then in a couple days they catch up to you and pass you and so on. Ranger and Canadia have been doing just that. Ranger got his name because apparantly he knows everything about Forest Rangers. This guy is 6’2″ and man can he walk fast! I can never keep up with his long legs. Canadia is from Canada of course. She said we suck a naming foreigners because there is a guy name Swiss from Switzerland, a couple from S. Korea that everyone calls the Koreans, and a German couple that are called…The Germans. Well, Canadia is one of the toughest girls out here. She got hit by a car a week prior to starting the AT. The Doc gave her a knee brace and she is pushing on.
A quick photo with product placement and then I will continue ;). No blisters from my Minimus and they are holding up very well.
I met up with this group of people that call themselves the Flock. It’s a long story why but everyone there has a unique bird call. You are supposed to call out when walking into camp to identify yourself. They were so much fun to hang with for a couple of days. I eventually became an honorary member and my bird call was the Turkey haha! Their names are Oops; she is always falling or forgetting something.
Mary Poppins; she has everything you could ever need in her bag.
Maybe Mike; no one was sure if Mike was his name for the longest time. And Cupcake; this guys is something else! Believe it or not but he used to live 10 minutes away from my house in Spartanburg! The first South Carolinian I’ve met. He got his name by saying that the following: “I want this year to be so easy, minimum rain and no snow, that they put a cupcake on my AT badge!”
We had a grand time hanging out at NOC, Hobo camping near the railroad and sitting next to the campfire way past hiker midnight (9pm). I eventually took off and made it to Fontana Village. There is no cell signal out here but the local Grocery Store has a computer so I got a chance to upload this blog. Fontana is soooo much fun! There are so many hikers here hanging out and resupplying. And guess what, FreshGround is here!!! He provides trail magic to everyone for several days then moves up the trail where we get a chance to meet up with him once again. When I came into camp, I ate a full plate of his special french fries, 4 hotdogs and 2 DrPeppers. I was going to eat my 5th hotdog when a girl, Belue, asked for it. FreshGround was out of dogs by then you see so I told her no. I’m just kidding! Of course I gave it to her! I simply got a second plate of fries and then my appetite was satisfied.
Well, that’s about it guys! Operation GA was a success so onwards to Operation Smokey Mountains. That is going to be tough because of some crazy Polar Vortex is supposed to hit us on Tuesday.
Thanks everyone for you prayers and support.
Hello everyone! I survived the Smokeys. It was intense; fog, rain, ice everywhere, 0 degree nights, snow drifts 2 feet deep, ice showers (thats where chunks of falling ice from the trees are hitting you). It was pretty intense. I will update with a post and pics about the events in a couple days. Right now i have virtually no signal out here. The goal is to get to Hot Springs, NC in 3 days time.
Smokey Mountains- Been there, Done that!
Hello everyone! I am currently sitting at the Hiker Ridge Ministries Resource Center using their computer. This place is a gem in Hotsprings, NC. If you are ever in town, make time to visit Queen Diva. She is such a bundle of joy to be around with. She also makes some delicious chocolate chip cookies.
So what can I tell you about the Smokeys? The Smokey Mountains are completely different from everything else so far. The trail in Georgia has been deciduous forest (leave based trees). Once you enter into the Smokeys, be prepared to walk through amazing groves of Conifers (pine trees). I am absolutely in love with pine trees! The smell of pine and the carpet of pine needles is intoxicating.
Right before I left Fontana Dam, I was resupplying at the local store. Their selection is not amazing but not too shabby. My food bag was a total weight of 16.5 pounds. That was supposed to last for 8 days but… I ate it all in 5.
The funny thing is out here people do not count calories anymore. We simply measure intake of food by pounds per day. All my food is dehydrated stuff by the way: pasta, oatmeal, mashed potatoes, and junk food like poptarts, snickers, paydays…
You may be surprised that I am eating 3 lbs of food a day but its actually perfectly normal haha! Most former through hikers are shoveling food down their throats all day long.
Well, once I entered into the Smokeys the weather for the next 2 days was supposed to be sunny. But that was wrong of course. It started snowing the next day, and the day after that, and the day after that… At first I was like “Wohoo! Snow, I love it!” After a few days I was like, “More snow seriously?! Come on!” And then things got interesting. The temp simply plummeted. I spent a cold night in my tent while it was 0 degrees outside. It was absolutely miserable haha! I would wake up every 30 minutes or so and do pushups/sittups to warm up and then try to go back to sleep. What made things worse was a re-occurring dream I had. There was this T-Rex that was chasing me all night long. He had it out for me hahaha! That’s what I get for watching Jurassic Park one too many times.
Eventually the snow stopped falling and I was able to put out some big miles despite the 2 foot deep snow drifts. I’ve never hiked in snow up to my knees but it was actually fun! I was able to dominate on the trail because of my shoe chains. Everyone was jealous and one guy even offered me $100 for them, but I refused because compromising safety was not worth it. I was lucky to make it to Standing Bear hostel where I could resupply.
One of my favorite shelters was Mt Collins Shelter. This place is nestled in among giant pine trees which reminded me of Snow white and the 7 Dwarfs of all things. I was expecting the Dwarfs to show up and kick me out. It is located .5 miles off the AT which isn’t too bad of a hike. I forgot to sleep with my wet shoes and socks that night, big mistake! My shoes were bricks of ice and my socks, well… If you held a piece of wood in one hand, and my socks in the other, you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference haha! True story. However, Dune said that Shelter gave him magic dreams. He spent all night at an ‘all you can eat buffet’! Those dreams are always the best. A lot of people out here have mentioned how crazy and vivid their dreams get.
I eventually made it to Hotsprings after 7 days of hiking in the snow, and one miserable day hiking in heavy mud/slush. Totally worth it!
Highlights of the trip:
-I scored some sunglasses at a hiker box. It was awesome wearing them in the bright snow. But I forgot them at pecks corner shelter.
-I got a new Jetboil at Fontana Dam. Man was I excited, like a kid on Christmas! But it broke the 2nd day of use.
-I thought my food would last through the smokeys. But I ran out 3 days short. I’m thankful for Standing Bear Hostel.
-My quads are part steel now. But by Achilles Tendons are still not up to par with these mountains.
That’s about it for now people. Take care and God Bless!
Care Packages questions/answers
Several people have been asking me how and where can they send a care package. First of all, thank you for that thoughtful gesture! Well, you can send care packages to Damascus VA or Atkins VA. I will be at Damascus in 2 weeks and in Atkins in 3 weeks.
If possible, please send out the package at least 1 week before I get there. That way it will be there waiting for me, vs me stopping and waiting for any packages. But don’t send too much. My pack is pretty small and I can only carry so much.
This is how the package should be labeled if sending to Damascus:
C/O Adventure Damascus
PO Box 1113
128 West Laurel Ave.
Damascus, VA 24236
PLZ Hold for Thru Hiker
ETA (April 18)
*if sending to Damascus, please send out the care package no later than April 11. Thanks!!!
The other location is as follows:
C/O General Delivery
5864 Lee Hwy
Atkins, VA 24311
PLZ Hold for Thru Hiker
ETA (April 24)
*if sending to Atkins, please send the package out between April 10-17.
I hope that helps. I will also let you guys know where I will be in next month. Oh! Almost forgot. Please send me a message if you are sending me a package so I can keep my eyes out for it. You can post it on this blog or text me 864-542-3809.
I am so blessed to have trail angels like you guys looking out for me. Many thanks!!!
Made it to Virginia!
Hello everyone, it has been a long 2 weeks since my last post. Erwin, NC did not have any signal nor did Kinkora hostel but, I am hanging out at the local public library right now in Damascus. This is a beautiful town that only has 850 people. All the lawns are well kept and the homes are in good shape. I love little towns like this in the mountains. It is funny that I say a long 2 weeks because 2 weeks out here seems like 2 months back at home. The reason is that every day is full of adventure and experiences. Every step that I take during the day is with purpose and it counts. The perception of time gets distorted on the AT if you will. The concentrated dose of movement that I receive each day on the trail stretches out time. There is a common phrase that I use at home; “Time flew by!” Out here its the opposite, “Time stands still.”
Right now I’m hanging out in Damascus doing chores like laundry, repairing gear, buying food and eating all day long. Zero days are the best. It’s dangerous to go into a grocery store hungry. You will always, ALWAYS buy way too much food. A V8 caught my eye and I couldn’t resist. There is nothing like the feeling of walking downtown chugging a 1.5 Liter V8 while the locals are looking with the facial expression “Whats wrong with that guy?” haha
The weather is still chilly out here. There are no leaves on the trees but the buds are starting to finally form. After 1.5 months on the trail I can’t wait for spring time to kick in full throttle. 2 Days ago a small snow storm caught us by surprise so I was one of the lucky few to be near a hostel. Kinkora Hostel is one of a kind. You absolutely must stop by if you are in that part of the AT. Bob Peoples is one of the kindest souls that I met that has a true passion for helping out hikers. He only charges $5 for a warm place to stay, shower, laundry and kitchen. While it was snowing outside we got together and started cooking and baking. There was cake, cookies, soups, and I made Jiffy Corn Bread muffins (which were a huge success if I may say so). That is one of my best memories so far on the trail.
But, the food experience doesn’t stop there. Coming into Damascus on Good Friday was such a blessing. Not only did us hikers prepare a spectacular meal of burritos for dinner, but the the locals had an amazing play about the life of Jesus in the local park. Everyone talks about Trail Days in Damascus, but they should also be mentioning Good Friday too.
Now, some people have mention that I am having too much fun and that is true. The trail has been one huge adventure so far. However….. there is always the painful aspect to the trail. Walking 15-20 miles a day has it’s toll on everybody. It is so funny watching people walk around in the morning. We are all like 90 year olds hobbling around due to pain/stiffness in knees and ankles. This starts to go away after an hour of hiking. After 8 hours of hiking my feet are begging me to stop. The thing is all day long I am walking of uneven surfaces with sharp protruding rocks/roots that jab into by foot, it really hurts! At night, I stretch and massage my feet for about 30 minutes and that has improved my recovery dramatically. Don’t get me wrong, the whole soreness thing is way better for all of us since Springer Mountain but it’s still there.
This was a beautiful section of the AT. You can see Roan mountain in the top right with the Balds following it. That is 11 miles from where I’m standing to Roan Mountain. There is a hiker in that picture, try and find him. Tip (he is really small).
Chair is a funny guy. he is a day behind me or so according to other hikers. We keep tabs on each other with log books that are found in every shelter. Here is an example:
Have no fear, Rugby survived that rough day haha.
One of the few downsides to ‘The Place Hostel’ is no laying on the couches. Every hostel has their own set of rules which are fine.
Alright, for those that couldn’t find the hiker in the previous pic, I have found him for you.
Guys I’m sorry that I’m rushing this blog but the library is closing right now! In town people are always on time limits and schedules that must be kept. On the trail all you have to worry about is walking at the pace that you feel like. It’s super layed back and very relaxing. Almost therapeutic in ways. Well, God bless and I will be back online in a couple weeks hopefully.
Sorry for the long delay since the last post. The thing is that most hostels I come across either have no internet at all or they have the slowest dialup ever. That creates problems for us hikers who are trying to find decent computer access in order to blog. Woods Hole Hostel has satellite internet. So if you really think about it, you are receiving this blog post from space!!
Many are wondering what I eat out here so let me give you a little taste of my daily food intake. Keep in mind that it always fluctuates a little in order to avoid food boredom.
Breakfast: 4 cups of oatmeal. I always add powdered milk, protein powder, some kind of green super food powder, instant breakfast carnation, and a couple ounces of olive oil. Then I grab a torilla and smoother it with peanut butter or nutella and down it with a cup of coffee. I think that gives me about 1,500 calories.
2nd breakfast: This is a couple hours later while im on the go and its too early to stop. I usually eat 3 bars; 2 cliff bars and a snickers or something like that.
Lunch: I stop and cook during lunch. This forces me to get a 30 minute break. My lunch tends to consist of whole grain angel hair pasta, I’m done with Ramen Noodles. Sometimes ill make spaghetti with some powdered Italian mushroom sauce and other times I’ll make a soup with chicken soup powder. Both types of meals will get a dose of chopped up garlic and onions and lots of olive oil. (yes, I do carry a clove of garlic and an onion). I also add Wasabi Peas to the meal, curtsey of Egor and Ella. But that’s not all, a few ounces of summer sausage on the side hits the spot.
2nd lunch: This is a couple hours later and tends to be a quick meal with tortillas. Something like tuna on tortilla with a bunch of tobasco sauce and a pieces of dried fruit.
Dinner: I tend to be on the go so there are 2 options; eat some GORP (peanuts with chocolate candy) or simply make a quick pit stop and make a protein shake. 2 packets of oatmeal with powdered milk (Nido is the best), muscle milk, packet of hot coco, and couple ounces of olive oil. This will power me through the last couple hours till supper.
Supper: If I have any energy left I’ll try to cook something with spaghetti with a side of meat and some kind of dried fruits. Honestly, supper tends to be any kind of meal mentioned above with loads of protein.
The funny thing is that a lot of hikers out here talk about my food bag. Apparently I carry one of the biggest bags on the trail haha! And I just found out from Raven that my choice of meals is always a great topic of conversation for other hikers.
So far I’m doing pretty good. We joke around that all of use have developed our hiker legs now, but not hiker feet. The feet are the weakest link for everyone. They get super sore at the end of the day. However, this is getting better. The past few days I’ve been hiking 20 mile days back to back with no problems. That’s telling me that the legs are definitely getting stronger. Speaking of strength, my pullups have decreased to 18 in the mornings! That’s horrible news so Lex brought me some hiking poles. I’m going to try to get my upper body strength back up. I guess morning pushups and pullups alone was not enough. When I hike with the poles I put as much force down into them as possible to work out my arms. I feel like some four legged creature now hiking the AT.
Lex hiked with me from Atkins for 13 miles. It was an epic hike through thunder, lightning and sideways rain. I gave him the trail name El Tigre because I knew the people at home would approve (Nina, Sara, and Alla to name a few). Ask him for the details on the trip, it was fun! Luckily El Tigre and I were below the large mountain that I was supposed to climb that day. This is what happened on top of Chessnut Mountain:
Some funny things that happened so far:
I was sleeping in Roan Mountain shelter next to Columbus. The next morning he told me:
“Dude, you talk in your sleep right?”
Me: “Really? What did I say?”
Columbus: “Well, I was awake at 2 in the morning and you said one word ‘Spiderman!’.”
We laughed and laughed all morning about that. You know for sure that your trail name fits when you speak your trail name in dreams hahah!
I told Columbus it was a good thing it was my name vs his or that would have been straight up creepy.
The other day I met Stretch for the first time. Stretch told us that he was walking down the side of the road sweating and dying from the blazing sun when his luck changed. He came across a Twinki in its wrapper. And it gets better, he also found a can of Dr. Pepper too! Unfortunately both were cooking in the extreme heat of the day so he did what anyone of us would do, Stretch ate the Twinki and drank the coke haha! Funny guy!
I came across this school from 1870. It was super neat to see how schools were built back in the day. It totally reminded me of little house on the prairie.
One of the coolest things I’ve come across so far were the ponies at Grayson Highlands. These guys move around the hillsides and are free to roam where they please. Us hikers pride ourselves in our pony selfies.
Guys if you have an opportunity to go camping for a couple days, go to the Grayson Highlands! You will have no regrets, only sweet dreams about ponies. Oh wait, I totally forgot to mention that they bite and kick if they don’t like you. Rugby came up to one of the ponies and the thing turned around and kicked him! He was so mad; “I flew all the way from Britian to see ponies and all I get is disrespect!” hahaha good stuff.
People talk about the Virginia Blues. A lot of people drop out in Virginia because they get bored with the trail. I just don’t understand that. It has been one awesome state so far! Here are some random photos I took in Virginia:
This was my favorite privy so far:
That’s about it for now. The next post will be in 2-3 weeks until I reach a larger town with a library or something. Take care everyone!
Wins & Norms- On The AT
I am sitting at a laundry mat killing time by reading about other people’s hiking experiences. It’s funny how that appeals to me more than the current world news or Hollywood drama. A simple life is a pleasant one. This blogger nailed it with their post on AT living and I want to share her view point. Enjoy!
It is amazing how when you are on the trail your life takes on a different set of priorities. The small “wins” in life are things you would normally take for granted. You end up doing things on a weekly basis that were never a part of your life before but you now rely on. You are living completely separate from most of the comforts you knew, but you quickly adapt and your life now feels normal, memories of your old life and they way things were done retreating into the distance.
1. Free laundry soap at the laundry mat, you use it even though you have allergic reactions to some detergents
2. All you can eat, anything. (If there is an eating contest you want to be around for Rooster to attempt it!)
3. A half used bottle of hotel shampoo in the hostel shower. You don’t want…
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How To Send Me Food And Presents
Hello everyone! Some more people have been asking to send care packages and don’t know where to. What I’m going to do from now on is post a few locations every so often so that if you get a sudden urge to send me goodies, you will know exactly where to. I will be at Waynesboro in about 10 days. So, please send out the package no later than 5/9/14 just to be safe. Label looks like this:
C/O General Delivery
200 S. Wayne Ave
Plz hold for AT Hiker
The other place is at Harpers Ferry, this is like the half way point. I will be making a pit stop at the ATC. I should be there at the end of the month. Please ship out package no later than 5/15/14. The label looks like this:
If you are sending via USPS:
If you want to send via FedEx or UPS, that’s fine becuase this is not a post office:
Thank you for your support!
Still in Virginia…
I finally made it to Waynesboro. This is a town that I should have passed through 4 days ago but something came up. I got sick. Yep, you heard right. Spidy got the bug. Every superhero has a weakness and mine happened to be a mysterious super stomach bug.
So this is what happened. It started as another typical day hiking 18 miles across some steep terrain. There is still no full shade from the trees in the mountains by the way. The buds are only now just starting to grow into leaves. So the sun is having a field day roasting us. It was 85* in the little shade that was out there for sure, one of the hikers had a thermometer. I was so happy not to have died on the trail of “Fried to a Crisp Syndrome” (its a real medical condition on the AT). So we finally made it to Bryant Ridge Shelter. This is a sweet shack that is 2 stories and holds 20 hikers. One of the biggest shelters on the AT and 4 of us had it all to our selves.
After cooking a legit dinner of pasta alfredo and stuff, I called it a night. My stomach woke me up at 10 and told me to run to the privy quick! I made it in the nick of time and threw up all my food. My initial thoughts were “Well that sucks. Those are calories that I really need.” Haha! The AT has wired my brain to think differently out here. Well after that ordeal I went back to bed only to wake up 30 min later and repeat the vomiting. This happened over and over. Every 30 min like clock work my stomach was heaving. I was so miserable and tired of running to the privy by 2 am that I simply slept on the edge of the porch. That way I could roll over, throw up over the side, and roll back into bed. Have no fear, it all came to an end at 4 am. That is definelty going in the top 10 most miserable things that ever happened to me. I couldn’t eat anything for the next 3 days and only started eating a little food on day 4. By day 8 I was finally 100% normal. However, it all came at a cost. I lost 60 miles worth of hiking and 10 lbs of body weight that I really need. Remember me how I used to be, not how scrawny hiker I have become.
Anyway, enough with my pity party about weight loss. It was inevitable. Here are some pics of the AT:
The Continental Divide is an imaginary line that runs through the Appalachian Mountains. On one side of the line all the rivers flow down to the Gulf of Mexico. On the other side they all flow to the Atlantic Ocean.
This is a wall on Humpback Mountain that is the remnant of the Civil War era. I enjoyed standing there in front of that wall contemplating the historical significance that it holds.
This is one of the many millions of obstacles mother nature has placed on the trail for unsuspecting hikers. Many a times I have jammed by heel on one of those rocks when they were covered in leaves. Have no fear, I was able to quickly detect the danger and expertly maneuver around it without an incident.
As you well know, every shelter has a journal. Well, there is a shelter called the ‘Priest Shelter’. So all the hikers write a confession in the journal about doing something wrong on the trail. One person confessed to spitting out her gum into the woods instead of packing it out. Gasp! What of the little critters? You are probably wondering what my confession was. It went something like this: “I confess to sleeping with my food bag last night. I also confess to eating a ton of it at 2 am, i simply couldn’t resist the temptation. Sorry.”
Yesterday we had the most intense thunderstorms come through our area. The heavens opened up and buckets of water came down all night long. What used to be the AT turned into raging streams as you can see. I was walking through knee deep water in some areas. But my area wasn’t too bad. Some people had to wade through waist deep water! -on a trail that is normally dry.
I still try and get a little bouldering action whenever possible. There is another climber I met ‘Sprout’, he does the same thing. We simply spot a rock, drop our packs, climb around, then hike on as happy as can be.
This was one of my major goals to get to. Simply a fantastic place with phenomenal views. I got in trouble for this pic by mom. Sorry mom. I told her that I was Spiderman and I knew what I was doing. She still scolded me.
Well that’s about it for now. I’ll try to post when I get to Harpers Ferry. In the mean time I will be hiking through the Shenandoah National Park looking for a black bear. In fact, word on the trail is that these bears are super friendly and will come up to you fearlessly. You can pet them, take awesome selfies, have a friendly wrestling match… this is a magical place. If that is all myth and there are no bears to be found, I’m going to plan B. That is where I cover myself with honey and hike the AT. Wish me luck!
Operation Virginia – Success!
Hey everybody! I’m doing fairly well as of right now. Just hanging out at the public library, that’s where all the cool kids go by the way. Virginia has been a blast. A lot has happened in this state and I’m so glad to be finally done with it. I’m ready to move on and see what else the AT has to offer.
Before entering the Shenandoah’s, my sister sent me another ‘Action figure’. It is awesome! Spiderman is an excellent addition to Chuck Norris. Some people accidently call them ‘dolls’. I always correct them quickly and tell them that Chuck Norris has made people disappear for saying lesser insults.
Shenandoahs are really unusual in that there are loads of people here. I have created 3 classifications for the type of hikers that one may encounter out here.
Class 1: The Thru-Hiker. These are hikers that can usually be spotted from a distance. They are a raggedy bunch. Style and fashion are simply words from a past recollection that is long gone. Often times you can also smell them at a good distance too when standing down wind. Thru-Hikers are a rare bread. They are elite hikers who have no shame when it comes to looks or odor.
Class 2: The Section-Hiker. These hikers come out for about a week or 2 in attempts to chip away at the many miles on the AT. Constraints such as time, money, and family all restrict their ability to thru-hike. These hikers tend to hike with many more luxury items in their packs than is needed. Their clean shaven faces and new clothing always gives them away. Clothing and hygiene tends to be on their list of priorities.
Class 3: The Day-Hiker. These are hikers from the civilized world. I now refer to them as “Civilians”. Oh boy, where do I start with this group? These guys always look sharp. Their clothes is clean and definitely stylish. These people can not fathom putting on anything other than their best clothing for the trail. The reason is, pictures. Seriously! They take like a million pics on their short hikes. Most civilians are only hiking for a couple hours and very few will dare attempt overnight camping. You will always, ALWAYS, know a civilian by their distinct smell. I like to call this particular smell as (Fresh). The ladies always smell like exotic flowers, strawberries or some sort of perfume. And the guys smell like clean bodywash or something. Shenandoahs are full of civilians, especially on Memorial weekend when I was there.
Well, there you have it. My hiker classification. Feel free to share it with others.
Back to the Shenandoahs. Luckily for me Plan B was never initiated (coating myself with honey). I finally saw a bear!
I didn’t get any closer for my bear selfie because I chickened out like a coward. I feel like I let everyone down. I know you guys wanted to see every detail in the bear’s face in my pics. Sorry, I’ll do better next time, promise.
Oh! My total bear count. Every hiker keeps a count of how many bears they see. So far no one has broken my record as far as I know: 12 bears! That’s right! 12 bears in 3 days.
There were so many critters in the woods out here. It was awesome! Except for the deer. The deer were the worst! No respect! These guys walked around my tent all night long making a racket while a tired Thru-Hiker is trying to get some rest. This happened several times when camping. One evening I was brushing my teeth and this Buck just walked out of the woods in front of me. He stopped in front of me (less than 20 feet) for a second to look at me as if to say, “What? You got something to say?!” and then he proceeded on grazing next to my tent all night long. No respect!
They are the worst at hiding too. I was walking on the trail and this guy was standing maybe 15 feet away in the bushes quietly. I could simply see the guy thinking; “If I stay veeery still, I’ll be invisible!”. Needless to say I spotted him with ease and took a pic.
There were loads of snakes out here too. That’s good. More snakes equals less mice. The mice chew holes in our gear and even chewed a hole in Sunshine’s tent! Horrible creatures!
The Shenandoahs have restaurants called Waysides that are usually .2 miles off the trail. Many hikers told be about one particular Wayside that had Blackberry milkshakes! I was so excited and hiked for several days in anticipation. To my dismay, no milkshakes!!! I was so sad that I wrote a poem haha!
One of the hostels had some Protien Pancake batter in the hiker box. Rugby and I were like, “Lets try to make some pancakes. How hard can it be?” I took out my titanium pan ($16) and proceeded to use my olive oil as butter replacement. The results were a disaster!
They were soggy on the inside and burnt on the outside. Rugby was a trooper. He ate them anyway and told me they were the best pancakes he ever tasted! Now that is a true friend right there.
I wanted to mention Bear’s Den Hostel. This place is truly amazing. It is ATC owned and operated. They really know how to take care of us hikers. It is the only hostel so far that has given us real mattresses to sleep on. Usually we sleep on plywood. If you are near Harpers Ferry, WV, please stop by and check it out. It even has a real sink with running water in the kitchen! We were standing there in awe. HAHA true story! Most hostels only have water available from the spigot outside to do dishes. Its the little things that makes us happy.
Harpers Ferry is such a cool town. There are stone buildings everywhere and the atmosphere is… historic. That’s the only way I can describe it.
Every hiker gets their picture taken and placed in the AT Conservancy headquarters. This is what will be placed in their archives. Behold, my pic:
I’ve hiked 1,010 miles so far. That is not including all the million extra miles of hiking into towns, far away water sources, and taking side trails for panoramic views. I’ll keep on trekking and will keep everyone updated when possible.
Nothing quite like a selfie haha!
Hey everyone. Im alive and still hiking the endless miles. I just wanted to let u guys know im in Pennsylvania right now. Us hikers have dubbed it Rocks-sylvania though. Word on the trail has it that trail maintainers secretly pile large amount of rocks on the trail for us. It has also been rumoured that they go around and sharpen those rocks, pointy end up of course. I have not wittnessed these atrocities personally but there seems to be clear signs of holiganism. It is clear that someone is trying to make our lives miserable. Mother Nature is on my list of suspects.
There is so much that happened aince my last post but that will have to wait since i cant really post pics with my cell phone for some reason.
Ive been with Kristo on and off. You should check out his blog in te mean time.
Take care and God Bless!
It’s been a while since my last blog post so I’ll try to catch everyone up on what happened. Lets see… after posting previous blog post in Harpers Ferry I found out that my care package was still not in. It would only come in the next day in the evening. With that in mind I had to make a decision, stay in town all day and do nothing or go to D.C. I found out that Matterhorn and Fritz were going too so I joined in. There is a local train that took us straight into D.C. for $11.
Boy did we stand out! It’s funny seeing people giving us double-takes all the time. Everyone was giving us these confused looks because they have no idea how to categorize us. Usually you can look at a person and see that they are a local business man, tourist or something. We just didn’t fit in with the D.C crowds. Scruffy, beards, large backpacks…
It’s funny that I thought D.C. would be a nice time to rest up. It was the exact opposite. We spent all day walking around exploring museums. I think I did more walking there than on the AT! My favorite museum was the Air and Space.
This place is HUGE! There are rockets, space capsules, nuclear missiles from cold war, airplanes and much much more. I could spend a whole week in that one museum alone. Definitely best museum in the world in my opinion.
We also went to American History Museum. Honestly this place should simply be called ‘The War Museum’. They had every kind of weaponry throughout the era and helicopters inside there.
The Natural Science Museum was super cool. Loads of animals from all over the world. I wish I could stay there several days and read all the info plaque about the critters.
D.C was very neat in the sense that all the museums and monuments are free to visit. There is so much awesome history in this place. But boy was I glad to be out of the city the next day. Talk about sensory overload! Cars honking, engines roaring, people yelling. Everything is so loud and fast moving. You might laugh but us hikers have become sensitive creatures of the forest where everything moves at a slow quiet walking speed.
I eventually got my care package and took off down the trail. Maryland was really neat. The trail is very well maintained and is flat and easy to walk on for the most part. On my first day in Maryland I came across Dave. He is a local that was walking to Annapolis Cliffs. After talking to him for a bit he invited me to go climbing with him. I was totally stoked! We climbed some of the best routes Maryland has to offer.
Spidy in his element!
The next day I was moving along the trail when I ran into a couple of guys climbing some smaller cliffs. I couldn’t believe my luck when they invited me to climb with them. 2 days in a row!
I didn’t get too much hiking done but it was totally worth it!
The AT Museum is between Harpers Ferry and Boiling Springs PA.
This is a small place that holds loads of info on the first Thru-hikers to ever finish the trail. These guys averaged 70 lb packs!!! The average base weight out here with food and water is 30 lbs. The most memorable hiker was Bill Irwin.
He wrote a book, Blind Courage, this is on my list of must read books now. This man is a true hero for accomplishing such a daunting task while blind.
I eventually got to Boiling Springs. It just happened that I was there in time for a giant festival “Founder’s Day” in this little village. Kelly runs the ATC and asked if I could stick around for half day and talk to the locals. She was hoping I could educate them about the AT and enlighten them in a way. I was like “sure!” So that’s exactly what I did. Boy did I feel like a celebrity! Everyone usually had the same response: “You hiked from Georgia?! And you are going to Maine?!! WOW!”. Hahah! I was like a Trail-ebrity if you will. I’m not used to such attention but I could get used to it!
I kept trekking on and got to the Doyle Hotel. It’s a hiker tradition to stay at this place.
Do you remember those old western movies where the cowboys walk into the bar/casino? Well, that’s exactly the same vib I got from this place. It’s an old western style hotel inside and out. The quality was not great by any means but I couldn’t complain.
I split the room rate with Trillium and Rogue. Rogue has the coolest stache. It’s naturally half white- thus his trail name. They have a blog that you can follow also:
Everything was great until I reached the dreaded second half of PA. I’ve heard rumors of this treacherous stretch of trail and they all ended up being true!
The overgrown brush causes a serious problem, ticks and poison ivy. The brush is a tick haven which isn’t good for us. PA has the highest rate of Lyme Disease for hikers and I believe this is the main reason. Oh, the poison ivy is everywhere! I used to follow the rule, ‘leaves of 3 let it be’ but now I have a new rule. ‘If it is green and has leaves, it’s probably poison ivy.’
No one told me the trail would walk thru a swamp. I guess its because of the constant rain the past 5 days. Yesterday I hiked for hours in this watery/muddy/goo none stop. It’s nasty. But this has actually taught me a valuable lesson. Hikers usually dread the rain. We don’t like it because our gear gets wet and the trail gets nasty. But there are others out there like Farmers for instance that anticipate the rain for a good crop turnout. You always have to be thankful for the good and bad things in life because what may be bad for you, may be a good thing for someone else.
I just keep telling myself ‘100 more miles and I’m out of PA!’.
On a side note I do want to mention that a lot of hikers have dropped out. The ATC estimates 60% of the usual crowd is gone. There are a lot of reasons why people quit but a couple stand out. Many people have lost what they call the “charm and fun” of hiking. They expected the whole experience to be an exciting time with new adventures around every bend. But that’s not the case. The honeymoon phase of hiking has worn off for all of us. We still have lots of fun but we must get past the daily grind first.
The grind is this: Our feet are always hurting and sore. We are always either sweaty and stinky from the humidity and heat or wet from rain. Occasional blisters from walking in wet shoes all day. Chaffing around my hip belt area because of sweating and rubbing. Poison Ivy on my body. Mosquito bites on arms and legs. Food boredom from eating the same general food all day. And the list goes on and on.
But this is not a reason to quit in my opinion. When the going gets tough, you have to put effort into whatever the task may be and finish what you started. This trail is like life in the sense that new relationships, new jobs, new hobbies are always fun and exciting in the beginning. However, as time passes on, the honeymoon phase of that particular thing will wear off and you must persevere and finish the task at hand. This builds character.
I know that even though PA is tough and tearing my feet up, there are better days ahead. The White Mountains promise to revive that childlike energy in all of us that we once had when starting in Springer Mountain.
As of right now I’m in Hamburg, PA. Yesterday I had and awesome time with locals at the Union House Bed & Breakfast. Mark and his wife even payed for my meal! Great food, good company.
Well, I’m going to find a place to eat around here, do laundry, hitch a ride back to the trail and keep you guys posted on my whereabouts soon.
New Jersey is a breath of fresh air to put it simply. This is a land of rolling hills, smooth trails, birds chirping, sun is always shining, loads of deer and bears- simply paradise! Every hiker that has made it through PA is so excited and pumped about the awesome terrain.
However, PA did leave its marks on me before I was done. My feet became swollen because of the terrain. This has never happened before on the trail. Swollen feet forced me to take an unexpected zero. As if chubby feet were not enough, my heel cracked in several spots. It was quite painful to walk on it but I super glued it together, took another zero and continued trekking.
PA really put me behind schedule. But the worst thing that happened to me was “The Gatorade Incident”. Somehow my Gatorade bottle soaked my cell phone. Yep, the cell is now dead so I can’t return your calls and texts. However, Mike another hiker, had it worse. We had an unusually cold night no he boiled water and put it into his Gatorade bottle. This works great when you put it into your sleeping bag. Mike did just this and crawled into bed. Then he heard a “pop!”. The cap came off and hot water started pouring out. He grabbed the bottle and tried to throw it out the tent but he forgot the mesh door was closed! The bottle bounced back at him and soaked everything else! Hahaha! Gatorade bottles are the worst.
I came across this lovely family the other day. They asked to be put on my blog so I of course I couldn’t refuse. Fun group of people.
The Koreans were such a pleasant surprise when I came across them. Last time I saw them was in the Smokies on that 0* night with the T-Rex dream. Seeing hikers from a long time ago is like seeing family for the first time in ages.
The past few days I have hiking with The Kallins. Super awesome trail family. They started hiking on March 30th. The kids are great! Cartwheel is a 8 year old lady who is a bundle of energy. Robin Hood is her brother who is a sharp kid who has the greatest memory I have ever seen. He recited to me a 12 stanza poem with no hickups! They have a blog too that you can read: http://kallinfamily.com/
This pic is a little blurry but after studying the bear tracks carefully I have been able to determine the following facts: Its approximately 1 year and 3 months old male that is 268lbs. Looking at the tracks it is clear that he is a very happy bear but is slightly bloated from the last meal.
I have a bear story that I simply must share with you guys! But, Mom if you are reading this, simply skip ahead to the next pic. (She is terrified of bears). Martial Arts was hiking in the Shenandoah’s when he saw a large pile of bear poo on the trail. He was thinking to himself that there must be a large bear somewhere nearby. As soon as he walked past a large tree he stopped and glanced to his side. Sitting there within arms reach was a huge bear starring him into his eyes!!! Martial Arts simply froze with indecision. He didn’t know whether to move forwards or backwards. He stood there for a couple seconds and blinked. The bear blinked back. And then he had a moment of clarity and decided to continue forward. He was so scared walking away that he never even looked back to see what the bear was doing! haha!
This is a rock garden. For some reason we have this weird obsession in building rock towers. Seriously, it’s awesome! I’ve built and added onto many rock towers.
I spotted this guy hiding in his shell so I put the GoPro in front of him and waited for him to come out. So I waited…and waited… and waited… he FINALLY came out and walked off 18 minutes later! The lesson learned: Turtles are in no rush to go anywhere.
Huge thanks to my friends back at home that sent my the last care package! The candy was great and the card was super cool. I almost shed a tear when reading the card but that wouldn’t have been very manly…
Right now I am in Vernon, NJ. Awesome locals! I hitched a ride immediately into town with no problem. Then a lady, Andrea, gave me a ride to the hostel and even offered me her couch if the hostel was really bad. That was extremely thoughtful but the Church Hostel here is excellent so I declined her offer. This town has surprised me with their hospitality.
I am looking forward to NY and what it has to offer. As of right now I am only 10 miles from the NJ/NY border. PA messed me up a little and really slowed me down but I’m hoping to make up those lost miles quickly.
Take care everyone and God Bless.
El Problemo (that means “Problem” in Spanish)
Hey guys, this is El Tigre (aka Lex the defender, Big Al…) reporting in on Spiders behalf. All is not well with Spider-Man. As if fighting off daily bear attacks, wrestling with Mountain Lions, building fires using only sticks and stones, and finding an appropriate place to go to the bathroom wasnt enough, his cellphone took a bath in Gaterade (more like Haterade). It is pretty much toast. I am not exactly sure of the details on how this happened, but word has it that he was climbing a 300 foot tree with only one hand while talking on the phone with Park Rangers to tell them about some poachers that were hunting some rhinos and after he climbed the tree (for better cell signal) he got thirsty and as he was drinking the Gatorade, one of the poachers shot at him and it hit the bottle which exploded all over his phone and got it all moist and stuff. Don’t worry, he scared off the poachers with his stare and beard….. yeah… the story checks out.
So, anyways, now I am left handling the massive logistical nightmare of replacing his phone with another one. If he has not returned your texts and phone calls, you now know why. As of right now, he is finally in New Jersey and loving it. No more ridiculous rocky terrains and rhino poachers. Spider has some interesting stories to tell, but that will have to wait for another week or so. Have no fear, I will deliver him a new cellular device soon!! That’s why they call me El Tigre 😉
Happy 4 of July!
The one day that I finally make it into town happens to be a holiday. That’s bad news because post office is closed and so is the library. I am unable to upload cool pics from my gopro untill i get a computer so be patient my friends. Pics of danger, suspense and adventure are yet to come. Until then I will leave you with a small update from my new/old iPhone 3. Oh, before I forget to my family and friends, pls send me a text with ur name. I lost everyones contact info with other cell.
I’m currently in Kent, Connecticut repacking all the goodies my friends sent me. I should be in Massachusets in a couple days- super excited about that. As for New York, glad to be moving on. NY was exciting, miserable, super, hot/humid, easy, ferocious mosquitos, swamps everywhere… I think you got the point. Did you know that there is a hurrican in the Atlantic called Andrew? I just found out about the guy last night while cowering in my tent during a crazy lightning storm. Anyways, all is well. I think there’s a town coming up in a few days with a library so stay tuned my friends for pics and… another Bear story (insert suspense).
Still in Connecticut…
You may be wondering why I’m still in this state when I should be in Massachusetts by now. Have no fear, there is a perfectly good explanation for that. But before I give my excuses, let me tell you about New York.
For some reason the people of New York decided to build the trail next to swamps. As you may well know, swamps are a place where all kinds of horrible critters live. I’m talking about man-eating turtles, poisonous butterflies, flying snakes, Sasquatch, and terrifying blood sucking mosquitoes.
The mosquitoes drove me crazy in NY. I don’t know how my friend Sara Rockclimbing(that’s her last name in my cell) does it. These guys bite me everywhere. They always get me through my shirt too. Any place that my shirt is tight across my body is always vulnerable: shoulder region, my back when the pack is off, and my rock hard six pack. NY really tested my sanity but luckily I survived.
Nearing the end of NY I came across Stick-Man. He hiked the trail couple years ago. It was fun hanging out with him and enjoying his stories, words of wisdom, and trail advice. He, like many other former thru hikers, had the same general advice: slow down and enjoy the journey. It’s the journey, not the destination that matters.
Stick-Man had a funny bear encounter during his hike. One morning he had to use the bathroom and there were no privies in the area so he did what we all do, go in the woods. He was squatting under a tree and doing his business when he randomly looked up above him. There, in the tree, was a bear looking down at him! HAHA! Seriously, true story. His first thought was, “Get the camera!” So he pulled up his pants, ran got the camera and took a sweet pic of a bear still hanging out in the tree. Too funny!
Even though NY was full of harrowing dangers, it had some sweet terrain that we had to get through.
The sign at the border was nothing glamorous so only Chuck got in on this one.
So… back to my excuse regarding Connecticut. I am blaming my longer than planned stay in CT on Michelle.
I was walking from Kent towards the trail head when she pulled up and offered to give me a ride. While talking to her I found out she was going bouldering with her friend Tara aka (Star). Of course I simply had to invite myself on the fun and those two were more than welcoming. We had loads of fun on the rocks.
After all that climbing we got hungry so it was off to Star’s house. She is a chef and served us up some delicious pasta and fried chicken.
Right now I am 7 miles outside of Massachusetts and will be there in a couple hours. CT was loads of fun and it will be dearly missed. Here are some more random pics I took:
Umm, as for the care packages and where to send them, I don’t even know! Call El Tigre. I’ll put all that responsibility on him. He can handle it, that’s why they call him…
I miss everyone at home and hope to be back sooner than later.
3 more states to go!!!
Vermont! Wohoo!!! I can’t believe that there is only 3 states left. Roughly 500 miles of the greatest terrain up ahead. This adventure is nearing it’s end slowly and I’m excited about closing this chapter in my life and opening up a new one after this. Right now I’m hanging out at Green Mountain House Hostel in Manchester, VT. This is by far the best hostel I’ve ever been to. The atmosphere here is very relaxed and positive. It has been rated #1 every year since it’s opening in 2008.
Connecticut was easy and fun. Then I got to Massachusetts. This is definitely one of the more memorable states I’ve been too. As soon as we crossed into Mass, the terrain automatically changed within a mile. I’m talking about coniferous forest. The smell of wonderful pine is everywhere! There is nothing like walking all day long through amazing pine forests.
After a couple days in Mass things turned for the worse. You remember when I was complaining about mosquitoes in NY? Well this was 10 times worse. No joke. They destroyed me. I will never forget a section of trail near the town of Great Barrington. They were so bad there that I had to speed walk/run through many swampy sections for hours with no breaks! At one point I glanced over my shoulder and saw this huge cloud of mosquitoes chasing me down the trail like zombies or something. It was crazy! The locals told me it was the worst mosquito year they ever had. Every time I stopped to eat or filter water, body armor was required.
I honestly thought those bugs would drive me insane. When hiking through the previous state of Connecticut, I averaged 10 mosquito bites a day. This number tripled in Massachusetts. But the good thing about those horrible bugs was they kept me moving quickly through the state.
Mass is full of these huge lakes but for some reason they call them ponds. Their definition of ponds is definitely skewed. My rules are simple. If you can wakeboard in it, its a lake.
I eventually made it to Dalton, Mass and had and amazing time hanging out with Tom Levardi and other hikers. Tom has been there since the very beginning. He provided me and Politician with a place to sleep in his house, showers, breakfast and dinner… simply an awesome trail angel.
When at Tom’s house, 2 hikers came by with stories about stalkers. Yep, you heard right, stalkers. There is a guy from Scotland, Dean, that somehow ran into a girl named Joy at a restaurant. She fell in love with him immediately and became obsessed with Dean. The guy got scared and ran away down the trail. She tried to get in contact with him by posting these index cards everywhere. I’m talking about cards in shelters, on trees, on logs, everywhere… over a 50 mile section of AT.
He got a restraining order on her lol!
Then Mr. Blisters showed up and told us of how he tried to run away from a hiker who got to attached to him. Blisters is a South Bounder (SOBO). A guy named Zeek hiking with him SOBO. At first all things were well until Zeek started using Blister’s stove and wearing his crocs around camp. Blisters tried telling him that it was weird and stuff but Zeek doesn’t get basic social ques. Blisters hiked a 32 mile day through the Whites and Zeek kept up!!! Blisters even snuck out of camp one morning at 2 am and hiked a 40 mile day. He lost Zeek for 3 days but the guy caught up and ridiculed Blister for abandoning him! haha! Mr. Blisters was like “Dude, your a full grown man. I didn’t abandon you! I tried to ditch you because you are driving me crazy!” But the guy didn’t seem to care and hiked with Blisters for another week until a miracle happened; Zeek got diarrhea that lasted one week. Blisters is now free of his ball and chain! haha too funny!!!
Some hikers are too unsecure about themselves and their surroundings. When they find a strong hiker who is confident, they tend to get attached for security.
Vermont is a muddy mess but that is not too much of an issue. The temps are way cooler and I only got bit by 2 mosquitoes in 4 days. That’s unbelievable! I’m really enjoying the hike and am super stoked about the White Mountains coming up.
You guys will be the first to know if there are anymore weird stalkers on the trail. Have no fear, they don’t stalk me because the beard is too intimidating. True story.
In New Hampshire finally!
Last time I posted, I was just entering Vermont. The beginning of the Vermont trail was absolutely miserable because of the mud.
There was a sign at the Massachusetts/Vermont border line that said “Entering Vermont Wilderness area. There is little to no trail maintenance in order to allow nature to dominate the area.” I was kind of confused about the “dominance” idea, but it seemed good on paper. However, seeing the trail first hand, I quickly changed my mind. Trail maintenance is VERY important. Without anyone taking care of the trail, the mud got out of hand. No one wants to walk through that thick black goo because its straight up gross. Walking around the edges unfortunately creates more erosion. Leaving the trail unattended creates a huge footprint that is not good for nature or those of us walking the trail.
The good thing is that this wilderness area only lasted for about 50 miles. After that, the trail went through different areas belonging to local hiking clubs. These guys did an excellent job keeping the trail clean. Vermont is simply beautiful! Loads of excellent views and lots of pine groves.
I really enjoyed Vermont because of all the hikers that I came across. The coolest thing on the trail is when you are walking along and then stumble across someone that you haven’t seen in many months.
This is a pic I took couple weeks ago. Last time I saw Canadia was on that super cold night in the Smokies (when the T-Rex was chasing me). It’s hard to describe the excitement that one gets after seeing a familiar face from ages ago.
Last time I saw Grasshopper and her husband Runnaway was in Virginia! We got reunited in Vermont. Grasshopper loves telling everyone a particular story about me. One day in Virginia, Runnaway and I were hiking together with Grasshopper right behind us. We were hiking and chit-chatting about casual topics like Cold Fusion, world peace, and quantum physics. Then, after a while I told Runnaway that it was great hiking and talking with him. “I’m going to take off now, see you down the trail!” And I did just that, put my legs into overdrive and powered up the mountain. Grasshopper started laughing and told her man, “I too want to take off, but my legs are stuck in first gear!”
One cool thing about Vermont is wild raspberries everywhere! It is so hard to force myself to keep hiking past these huge patches of berries. I could sit there all day and eat them by the handfuls but that wouldn’t get me any closer to Katahdin.
Last week, I was right outside of a town and was completely out of food. I decided to dig one last time through my food bag and found this:
a half eaten snickers at the bottom of my food bag… WIN!!! It’s totally the small things out here that make the difference between a great day and a rough one.
Right now, I am hanging out at Tony’s home waiting for my care package to come in. It should be in tomorrow. But guess what, Tony used to be the group publisher for Climbing Magazine! Crazy awesome! Locals in Hanover, NH are super nice and take in hikers all the time. They love listening to our stories and simply enjoy meeting people from all walks of life.
The White Mountains are only 50 miles away. Stay tuned for loads of epic views.
Maine-ly Done With the AT
Hey guys this is Sergey reporting in for Spiderman. For those that do not know me, I am his youngest brother and typically go by Surge (yes like the soda from the 1990s). I have been teaching Spiderman, since the day he was born, the skills necessary to become the man he is today. I was asked by Spiderman to update the blog, do to his inability to gain access to a computer. To get you in the loop, Spiderman is probably alive and doing well. Last we heard of him, he was fighting off an angry pack of gorillas that have been raiding the campsites. And if that wasn’t enough, the gorillas have been placing the occasional banana peel on the trail for an unexpected hiker to slip on.
Spiderman was given a deadline to reach Mount Katahdin by the end of the month. He has less than 200 miles to go so a pace of about 17 miles per day will allow him to complete the journey before then. Spiderman did say that the hiking is getting old and he is looking for alternative methods of completing the trail.
Just a quick hiking lesson, Blazing is a term used by hikers to describe the method they choose to hike along a trail.
- White blazing is when a hiker travels the trail by foot and follows the white blazes.
- Yellow blazing is when the hiker takes a ride in a vehicle along the trail.
- Blue blazing is when a hiker travels along a river parallel to the trail.
- Pink blazing is when a guy hikes after a girl (which is apparently pretty common). Most of the time the girl does not know or is trying to get away.
- Banana Blazing is when a guy or girl pursues another hiker.
Spiderman decided to go moose blazing. He captured a moose, harnessed it up, and is riding it all the way to Katahdin. With this he joins the ranks of the historical elites.
Stay tuned for Spiderman’s update before he conquers Katahdin which has been in his sights from the beginning.
August 31 – Head in the Clouds
Hello everyone, I’m driving home right now but would like to re-blog the Kallin Family’s summit posting. It was a privilege to have summited with them.
A Family Adventure of the 2,185 mile hike from Georgia to Maine - 2014
We woke up early and hit the trail by five thirty to try to beat the forecasted weather expected to roll in later in the day. Most of the other thru-hikers had a similar approach and were on the trail between five and five-thirty. But even Spider-Man, the fastest of us up the mountain (in about two hours and ten minutes), ended up with his head in the clouds.
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The 100 hundred mile wilderness. Many of those that hear of it become slightly intimidated. It seems to be a place that is distant, vast, wild and dangerous. There is a cloud of mystery that surrounds this section of trail. It is intriguing how much us thru-hikers talked about it as we approached it in the past weeks. This was the final exam for all of us before summiting Katahdin, the last mountain. Hiking through the wilderness we discovered that there was nothing too difficult about it. It consisted of more of the same terrain that we had been hiking on: rocks, tons of roots and plenty of nasty black mud. Us guys hike this distance all the time between resupplies. Go into a town, resupply, hike 80-100 miles and get into the next town. That was basically my life for the past 6 months.
I fondly remember our conversations in the wilderness. It mainly consisted of food. The closer we zeroed in on Katahdin, the more we talked about all the different types of food everyone would eat once finished. I had this image burgers on my mind the last 2 days. BBQ pulled pork burger, cheese burgers with extra cheese… The promise of town food kept driving me onwards towards the finish.
It happened so that I was hiking with the Kallin Family, Bear Juice and Blink. There was no better company than those folks on my last stretch of trail. Loads of positive energy. Last time I saw the Kallins was several months ago in NJ. They took 2 weeks off and then caught up to me in the wilderness. I know what you are thinking, “The kids took 2 weeks off and still caught up to you?!” Well, my rebuttal is this, “I know, I suck.”
The second to last night I was climbing up the last small mountain: Rainbow ledges where everyone planned to camp. This is a small mountain with a beautiful view of Katahdin in the distance.
I was totally smoked by the end of the day. 23 mile day and I was rationing food like crazy. I destroyed my 15 lb food bag the first 4 days and so payed the cost on days 5-6. Anyways, when I got to the summit Blink yelled out “Spiderman! Berries! They’re everywhere!!!” Sure enough berries as far as the eye could see. I have never seen these kind of berries before. “What are they?” I asked. Blink: “I have no idea but they taste amazing!” Well, I did what anyone else with common sense would do; drop my backpack, plop down next to a bush and start eating handfuls of these mysteriously delicious berries. A thought did cross my mind, what if they are poisonous? To which I answered, “Who cares! At least I’ll die a happy man.” haha It’s funny what hunger will do to a man.
After what seemed like ages, Blink and I forced ourselves to stop eating and set up camp. A couple hikers told us later on that those were Huckleberries and totally safe to eat. I have no idea why they are not sold in grocery stores. They taste many times better than blueberries.
The next day we hiked into Baxter State park. We registered as Thru-hikers and set up camp in an area specifically designated for us hikers. It was so much fun hanging out with everyone on the last night. We built a fire (the first one in months) and sat around sharing funny stories late into the night. It was funny talking about the trail: funny moments, scary ones, embarrassing stories…
After a few hours of sleep everyone was out of camp and hiking up the mountain by 5am. We were told that there was a rainstorm moving in that afternoon so everyone was hustling up the mountain. I kicked it into overdrive because of this:
The rainstorm was moving in on me so I flew up the 5 mile climb in 2 hours 10 min. But, I didn’t make it in time. Freezing cold wind/rain hit me as I got close to the summit. And then I saw it, the legendary sign! The sign was probably the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen! I’ve only seen pictures of it and now I finally got a chance to physically touch it!
People asked if I cried when I saw the sign. Nope. Way too cold to cry. I was completely soaked by freezing rain and was trembling pretty bad from the cold- totally worth it!
I simply can’t convey my thoughts and feelings very well about my finish on paper. Laughter/happiness/smiles/hugs, all of these things were experienced on Katahdin.
I am glad I hiked the AT. It has made me a better man physically, mentally and spiritually. This was a walk-about that I needed in order to grow and improve on many different levels. Would I ever do it again? Nope. Once is enough. This endeavor was life changing in a positive way. I’ve recieved much from people and my experiences on the Appalachian Trail and am now ready to give back to others. Many thanks to all those that supported me, sent me letters of encouragement and care packages. I am truly blessed to have so many wonderful friends and family in my life.
What the AT is all about…
I want to talk about the AT a little bit and what I learned from it. As you know now, hiking the AT gives one lots of time to think about many deep questions. One of which has been; Why is the AT so significant to so many people? The AT changes those who complete the long journey in many different ways.
While talking to other hikers, I have noticed a common thread of conversation emerge. In the beginning of the hike, everyone talked about food and gear. Everyday, all day long, those were the most common topics. It was fascinating to see how people were equipping themselves for the long journey ahead. The creative meals were also fun to talk about. However, these topics are rarely brought up as of now. Everyone is content with their choice of gear that they are carrying. As for food, there is really no more way of spicing things up. We eat anything and everything and that’s all there is to it.
The new common thread of conversation that I have noticed emerge the last couple months is, People. We are always talking about funny stories revolving around hikers. All of us look forward to every morning and every evening because that is when we get a chance to hang out and spend time with each other while cooking and eating. Those moments of conversation when hanging out at the campsites mean the world to us. There is a sense of camaraderie and genuine interest in sharing each other’s company. I see it as a unique sub-culture/community. What is interesting is that people of all ages and from all walks of life can simply sit down and share a few laughs. Age, gender, financial status means nothing to us. Those are all social barriers that have come down.
Many of us wore masks before coming out on the trail. I’m talking about masks that hid our true selves. We wore those masks in fear of what others may think if they found out what we were truly struggling with. The masks that many of us wore when living our lives outside of the AT tended to hide our struggles, disappointments, and fears. We tend to put forth a front of constant happiness and joy in hopes of being liked. Many of us feared rejection from those around us if we let them know of our present issues. Many of us thought that “If I’m not always happy, then others will think something is really wrong with me.”
On the AT, we learned to take those lousy masks off. We all have rough days whether it’s due to significant foot pain, plowing through miles of rough terrain (mud or rocks), getting all our stuff completely drenched in rain, getting eaten alive by mosquitoes, or simply feeling mentally/physically drained. The neat thing about the AT family is that it’s letting other’s know of your current struggles that helps greatly with issues of the day. Keeping it all internalized does you no good. The other hikers totally get what you are going through. However, we do not live and dwell in negativity. That does no one any good. People that are simply open about their joys and struggles have a very unique bond that I like to call “Family”. The family totally gets you and helps bring one out of that state of misery.
The AT family is what makes the Appalachian Trail so special. Initially I thought it was all about nature, but it really is not about the mountains, the views, or the trees. It’s people that make the AT so special. Many hikers have never had a real family at home. They never had a real solid network of friends at home. The AT has given them a taste of this and this is why many of them are dreading Katahdin. They fear the loneliness that awaits them back at home once this adventure is over. They fear the life of false identity that they have created among their peers. They fear putting on that old mask that has been off for so long. I am telling these hikers that it is an excellent opportunity for them to share with the world what it truly means to be happy in life. Happiness is found in living for others. A life surrounded by a genuine group of family and friends is worth living.
But there is much more that can be said about the life lessons that the AT teaches. Everyone learns something different about themselves and others out here. The AT is not a vacation destination. This is a trail that hammers on its victims relentlessly until the end product is better than the initial one.
Best wishes, God bless!
This is probably my last post regarding the AT. I just wanted to let everyone know I’m doing well at home. Transitioning back was a breeze. Here is a video of the AT that I composed. It’s a small glimpse of the hike. Hope you enjoy it!
Best wishes to everyone and a many thanks for joining me on this marvelous adventure.