Saturday, August 25, 2012


I can see it!
It is less than one hundred feet away.
The end.
I start moving faster.
I need to get there.
The sun has erupted over the peak of the mountain.
The cold air chills my hot skin.
Colors so vivid are surrounding me.
I move faster.
My breath coming in gasps.
So many times I've tried to imagine this moment.
Only 50 feet now.
Over 5 months I've been trying to get here.
Now I can see the end.
I need to be there.
My throat starts to tighten.
I move even faster.
20 feet.
I hear a wheezing with each inhale.
My feet are a blur of motion beneath me.
It is beautiful.
10 feet.
I throw my poles to the ground.
I begin to slow.
5 feet.
Emotion chokes my breathing.

Thursday, August 23, 2012


Bleep, bleep, bleep, bleep, bleep.

     I rolled over and shut the alarm off on my phone.  The moment had arrived.  I let the air out of my sleeping pad for the last time.  I stuffed my sleeping bag into it's sack and then put everything not into my backpack like I had countless times before, but into the trash compactor bag I used to keep water from getting inside my pack.  I changed into my shorts, pulled on my socks and shoes and went through a mental checklist of what I needed to bring with me.  I had a couple energy bars to eat, my light thermals that I have been using to sleep in, my raincoat that I use as a wind breaker, and my wool hat.  I think I am ready.  I throw my backpack on and said farewell to "Sagebrush".  I turned and started walking.  First I stopped at the ranger's station to drop off my bag of stuff I no longer need, then I crossed the bridge over Katahdin stream and found a picnic table.  I filled my water bottle up from the stream and then made my breakfast of oatmeal and instant breakfast.  I sat down on the bench at the picnic table and gazed up at the sky.  The stars were glowing brightly and I fixated on the one constellation that I always look for, Orion, the hunter.  There he was perfectly displayed in the opening of the trees provided by the campground.  I found it suiting that I was staring up at him while I was about to set off on the last leg of the AT, which follow a path called The Hunt Trail.  I rose and walked to the edge of the campground where the trail head was and found the register. I wrote my name and time of departure - 3:25AM.  I sighed and started up the trail into the inky blackness of the forest with nothing to see by except the red glow of my headlamp.

The Wilds

     I ended up staying two nights in Monson Maine.  One to rest and the other because it rained all day long. When I did return to the trail it was warm and sunny and looking like it was gonna be good hiking weather.  My father walked with me for a bit and I came to a sign for The Hundred Mile Wilderness.  I signed the registration card so if I didn't show up on the other side in a few weeks, they knew where to look for my corpse.  The only real tricky part about this section was how much food to carry.  I had to make an estimate on how long it would take me to go 100 miles.  I planed on it taking six days, but in my mind I thought I could do it in five.  Either way my food bags were full to the top and with that comes all the extra weight.

     About fifty feet from the sign I came to a little brook that normally you would probably just hop over, but because of all the rain recently, it was swollen to a point where I was going to get wet.  I said farewell to my pops and tromped through the water.  The trail afterwards was no better.  It was filled with standing water so you could either hop from side to side trying to avoid it or go right through the middle and get wet.  Since I was already wet I figured why waste the energy, through the middle I went.

Thursday, August 16, 2012


     I left Rangeley Maine in the afternoon with warm weather and cloudy skies.  The trail headed steadily upward as I passed Piazza Rock and made my way towards Saddleback Mountain.  The trees became smaller as I gained elevation and the terrain much rockier.  Thankfully it was not wet or I am sure I would have slipped.  I crested the top of the mountain and sat down to rest and admire the view.  It is amazing how beautiful it is here.  I still haven't gotten tired of seeing the views.  I didn't linger too long though and started hiking again.  I descended slightly to the gap between Saddleback and The Horn.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Bright Side

     I headed back out on the trail feeling better.  It was late in the day and still pretty warm.  I set my goals very short, just try to make the first shelter only two miles in.  The trail was steep from the beginning, but so far so good.  No dizziness, no fatigue, no crapping out my will to live.

     I made it to the shelter and sat down to rest and figure out if I was going to push on.  The next shelter and camping area was five miles away with some big climbing in between.  The more I rested the better I felt so I  decided to get up and get my sorry self moving again.  I went up and over Baldpate Mountain which was a rocky slab of a with an open ridge between two peaks.

Friday, August 3, 2012

The Plague

     I got a late start back on the trail, but had high hopes as to how far I was going to make it by the end of the day.  My father walked in a ways with me, but it wasn't long before the trail  began getting steep, so I set off on my own again.  I was feeling good and raring to go.  It rained earlier in the day and everything was still wet.  I was climbing up one particular rock face and my traction gave out and I fell hard.  Nothing too injured, just some scratches and probably bruises.

     Shortly after I fell it started raining again and it seemed like the trail was going up every steep rock face it could find.  I kept slipping in spots where I thought I should be able to grip.  It really wore on me that I wasn't able to trust my footing.  After almost five months out here I thought that I knew my capabilities.   I came to a side trail to campsite and stood there trying to decide what to do.  My guide said there was a shelter five miles away, but I had no idea how long that would take me.  Feeling a little defeated I decided to go to the campsite and set up my tent for the night.  It was still pouring down rain and when I got my tent up, but I wasn't sure what to do next.  Do I just jump in with my wet clothes on?  Do I take them off first?  Where do I put them when I do take them off?  I couldn't figure it out.  I stood in the heavy rain for about twenty minutes being indecisive, until I finally came up with a plan.  I strung a short clothes line attached to the side of my tent.  I quickly took off my rain coat and flung it on the line as I jumped into the tent.  There, I was greeted with a big puddle on the floor.  Crap.  Luckily I carry a little piece of a Sham-Wow for drying things.  I slowly mopped up the puddle thankful the tent wasn't leaking, it was probably water that got in as I was setting it up.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

White Out

     I returned to the woods after stripping as much non essential stuff from my pack as I could in preparation for what was to come.  I hiked a short distance to Jeffers Brook shelter where I ran into a surprising number of north bound thru hikers.  There was a guy named "ManBearPig" who I ran into over the Georgia North Carolina border, but hadn't seen the entire trip.  He was traveling with a guy that seemed constantly stoned, appropriately named "DudeManBro".  Also, I ran into "NutterButter" again who, since she had to split from two other ladies, was also hiking alone.  She and I decided to hike through The Whites together just to be on the safe side so neither one of us get too lost or too dead.  

     I woke around five the next morning, packed up quickly and started hiking in the grayish early morning light.  There was no approach to the mountain, it started immediately and continued a steep uphill grade for four miles.  I, of course, was soaked in sweat.  The forest slowly gave way to shorter scraggly pines.  The trail leveled off and I walked along a ridge lined with pines slightly shorter than myself.  In front of me loomed the peak of Mount Moosilauke.  I left the level tree lined ridge and began climbing again.  The trees faded as I gained elevation.  The trail was now marked with rock piles called, cairns (karens).  A wide grin spread across my face as I reached the top and could see in every direction.  

Friday, July 20, 2012


     I spent one more day visiting a maple syrup and cheese farm with Susie before hitting the trail again.  You really can't blame me, it's cheese, and maple syrup, and Susie.

     Back on the trail, I left Killington VT and headed uphill.  Not long into the hike I came to a place called Maine junction.  This is where the Long Trail and Appalachian Trail split apart.  The Long Trail continues north through Vermont and will end in another hundred miles or so at the Canadian border.  The AT turns hard east and makes a bee line for the state border.  I wished all Long Trailers good luck, even though no one was standing there, and resumed walking.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Long Trail

     I returned to the trail the next morning and my father hiked with me until the terrain got too steep, which was almost immediately.  The trail wound its way up to a high ridge where a few miles in I came to a sign.  I just crossed into Vermont.  The Appalachian Trail is now also called the Long Trail for one hundred or so miles.  I snapped my obligatory picture and kept on hiking.  It wasn't long until I came to a shelter so I stopped and took a quick break.  There was a young guy there with a fresh face and a big pack.  I asked him how far he was going.  He said the whole thing.  Up until now that had meant he was attempting to thru hike the AT, but now that I was at the start of the Long Trail it meant this was day 1 for people on an over two hundred mile endeavor.  He reminded me of myself way back in Georgia, excited, apprehensive, overwhelmed and under prepared.  I gave him any advice he asked for and wished him good luck, he was gonna need it.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Choose its

     Let me start off by saying that I forgot to mention that I made it to Connecticut.  I met up with my father around Kent CT and we ate with people in pink polo shirts and khakis.  When I left the next morning from the trail head the heat was just as oppressive as it was the day before.  I climbed up and over a mountain right off the bat and was instantly soaked in sweat.  A new addition lately has been these little tiny flies that circle inches in front of my face.  Occasionally one of them strangely decides it is going to fly directly into my eyeball.  At this point I slam my eyelid shut, which kills the kamikaze bug and then I stagger around as I try to remove the corpse.  Sometimes the dead bug finds it's way under an eyelid which is gross in so many ways, but what can I do.  Now picture this scenario while climbing down steep treacherous rocks and you can get a felling for my situation.  

Saturday, June 30, 2012


     I left out of Vernon under rainy skies, my friend Craig dropped me off at the trail head for the AT that I had used so many times.  I started climbing up Wawayanda mountain, the trail was so familiar I knew every twist and turn.  The locals call it, "The Steps" or "Stairway to Heaven" because of the rocks stacked nicely for the steep ascent to the peak.  I took the blue trail to the overlook and gazed down on the town I grew up in one more time.  My time home was a whirlwind of seeing friends and family, unfortunately I didn't see everyone that I wanted to, but not everything works out the way we would like.  I turned around with a sigh and headed off into unfamiliar terrain once again.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012


     It was a warm winter day, he was 17 and a senior in high school.  Mid term exams had just let out and he was driving on his usual route home.  He had the radio playing, the windows down and was enjoying the unseasonably warm weather.  He came around a corner and saw someone standing on the side of the road.  As he approached he noticed that it was a girl from his school, but something was wrong.  She looked frantic.  He stopped the car next to her.  He opened his door, got out and asked if she was okay.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Jersey Baby

     I left out of Palmerton Pennsylvania and immediately started climbing Lehigh Gap.  Boulders and overgrown trail were the order of the day.  The trail was so steep at times that I had to use my hands to help pull myself up.  It was also so overgrown that several times I lost the trail because it was almost impossible to make out.  On top of the mountain I met an old hiker who told me about this whole are being defoliated from a local Zinc smelter and that it is only now starting to regrow.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

PA Rocks

     I recuperated for a day or so before I regained my strength enough to start hiking again.  I was dropped off at the same spot that only a few days earlier I barely hobbled out of.  I felt much better, still not a hundred percent, but definitely healthier.  It is crazy that I can feel so good one minute and then like I'm on my deathbed the next.

     The trail followed a ridge and was lined with rocks.  There was not much elevation gain or loss, but the heat and humidity made it hard going.  My body fell into the routine of walking.  My feet quickly danced around the sharp little rocks without much conscious input.  I kind of zoned out and before I knew it, it was late in the day and I found a nice little spot next to a river to set up my tent.  The skeeters and gnat were all over the place so I decided to build a fire.  I have never been that good at starting fires, I struggle with getting them set up right.  I build tepee versions and log cabin versions, but none of them seem to work for me.  So I figured I would try the gravity fire I was so critical about when I first saw "August" build them way back in Georgia.  So first I laid a few large logs across the rocks in the fire pit, then thick branches, then smaller branches and twigs.  I packed some dry leaves in it, put the fine kindling on top and lit it.  It caught right away and I didn't need to tend to it for quite some time.  I did not build a towering monstrosity like I had seen, I kept it somewhat small.  The smoke pushed away the bugs and I sat watching the crackling logs as the day faded into night.  Hmm, gravity fire.
August and a gravity fire

Friday, June 8, 2012

Oh, Doyle

     I set off from Caladonia State park in Pennsylvania under cool blue skies.  I had only one thing on my mind, the halfway point, my guidebook said it was only thirteen miles from where I began so it was in my reach for the day.  When I neared the intersection where there was supposed to be an often photographed sign my adrenaline started to build.  It has taken just under three months to make it to this point and an enormous amount of effort, but passed the spot without seeing a sign.  I thought that maybe I didn't see it and walked right by, or that it was taken down for repair or something.  A little perturbed I kept going down the trail, I kept looking at my trail guide to see if I was where I thought I was.  When I got to the shelter that was four miles after where the sign was supposed to be I knew I must have missed it.  I sat down at the picnic bench provided and began eating my lunch.  Two ladies out for a short hike stopped by and started asking questions about my trip so far.  I told them I was a little disappointed that I didn't see the halfway sign.  They said it was only about two minutes further down the trail and it has been there for the last couple years.  I immediately packed up and started walking again.  Sure enough, right down the trail was the elusive sign.  I took my obligatory photos and pushed on.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Halfway There

     Sometimes other people have said it better than I ever could...Enjoy

      From a Southbounder last year


Friday, June 1, 2012

Farewell Dixie

     I left Harpers Ferry late in the morning on a beautiful day.  The sun was shining and it was neither too hot nor too cold.  The trail went over the Potomac River, into Maryland and along railroad tracks for several miles.  It was flat and a nice pleasant stroll.  Eventually though it made a turn and started heading uphill, that is when I saw "No Trace", "Unbreakable", "Rainbow" and a girl named "Nutter Butter", sitting along side the road.  I stopped to talk and they said that "Nutter Butter's" foot started to hurt so bad that she was getting picked up to take time off and let it rest.  They were also thinking about getting some food delivered while they waited.  That sounded like a grand idea so I said I would chip in.  That is when a local came down off the trail and walked by us.  We questioned her about good places to eat in the area and who delivered.  She offered to take us to mcdonalds and bring us back, so away we went.

     An hour later I finally resumed hiking with a nasty processed hamburger rotting in my gut.  The trail was really amazing though, it passed by several historic landmarks from the civil war and times gone by.  There were spots where you could stop and read little signs about what took place in this area or what that building used to be.  It really got my mind thinking about all the neat history this area contains.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012


     I left Big Meadow campground with my father, this time with no hills for him to toil up.  Not that he toils, but the terrain was easy going so he stayed with me for a mile or so, then we went our separate ways.  I got a late start to the day, but still had an ambitious goal for my destination for the night.  I kept a fast steady pace throughout the afternoon only stopping for short periods of time to eat a little, drink some water and rest.  The day was warm, but not overly to the point of me being constantly soaked.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012


     I returned to Rockfish gap and entered the "Shennies".  That't the nickname for Shenandoah National Park, I figured since I walked to them I should be able to call them by their casual name.  So not more than a half mile of walking I came to a little wooden booth in the woods.  Here I filled out a little registration tag, it asked for name, address, where I will be staying, how I will be getting there, next of kin to contact when I am mauled to death by fearless bears that want to eat my gorp.  The "Shennies" want all overnight hikers to stay in designated shelter areas in order to reduce the impact on the land.  It is much the same as the Smokies were.

Saturday, May 19, 2012


     I hit the trail late in the day with a weather report promising that rain was on the way.  I only planned on hiking five miles to the nearest shelter which rumor said was a palace among shelters.  Sure enough when I got there I took in the behemoth that could hold twenty people on two levels, had windows throughout and plenty of seating.  I set up my sleeping bag in the penthouse suite and settled in for the night.  Not long after darkness fell the rains began.  They lulled me to sleep and greeted me in the morning.

Sunday, May 13, 2012


     I headed back into the woods for a quick two day, thirty mile section.  As soon as I stepped back on the trail I was greeted with the same odd noise that I heard prior.  This time though I spotted the culprit, cicadas.  I saw live ones on trees and and leaves and little cicada corpses littering the ground.  Evidently this is the seventeen year arrival for this part of Virginia.  I was kind of hoping for a more exciting reason for the noise, maybe a secret military test gone awry, alien space craft hovering overhead, or even just Dalleville Virginia being sucked into a worm hole to another universe, ya know, exciting.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012


     My father was about to give me a ride back to the trail when I spotted this neat looking caterpillar sitting on the side view mirror.  I stopped and snapped a picture and then got in the car.  Two seconds later a man at the RV park was waving his hands at us and I knew immediately what he was signaling.  I left my backpack leaning against the back of the car and forgot about it when I saw the damn caterpillar.  There was only minor damage when we backed up, man, I am such a ditz at times.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Wood's Hole

     I started back on the trail after laying up for a day with my dad.  The afternoon was very warm and humid and I was feeling pretty drained from my bout with stomach issues.  The trail climbed up a hill directly from the road crossing and then back down to a river valley.  For the next several miles the trail wound around the river crossing small little creeks along the way.  It would have been really easy walking if I was feeling a hundred percent, but I had to stop, sit down, rest and collect myself more times than I have ever had to.

    By mid afternoon I reached Wapiti shelter which was still along the river, but sat right at the base of a mountain that the trail went up.  I sat down and ate some food, contemplating whether or not to stay for the night or push six miles more to a hostel I had been hearing about for the last couple of days.  As the debate raged in my head I happened to read some paper left on the shelter floor from a previous hiker.  It was a photo copy from a guide book that gave some history about the shelter I was sitting in.  It said "Wapiti" was a native word for Elk and that the shelter used to be located further down the trail, but was moved when someone was murdered in it.   Hostel it is.

Monday, April 30, 2012


     I left the truck stop in Atkins Virginia and the wintery weather behind as I headed back out on the trail under blue skies and a warm wind.  The blustery white world was replaced with lush green.  I traveled through farm lands, over rolling hills filled with cows and along gentle rivers.  The trail was lined with wild flowers I haven't seen before, not that I know what any of them are, but the flowers just jump out at you in stark contrast to the world around.  I felt like I was stopping every few minutes to take a picture of a some new pretty flower.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012


     I slack packed again for ten miles out of Damascus Virginia on a beautiful sunny day.  It was so nice that I hiked with my shirt off to do something about the farmer's tan that seems to be permanently etched into my skin, but alas I ended with the same pasty chest that I started with.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Mr. Peoples

     I headed back into the woods with warm weather and beautiful blue skies.  The trail meandered around gentle sloped hills and through fields with wildflowers.  I had planned on taking a shortish day in order to stay at a highly recommended hostel the next night.  My goal was for a place called Mountaineer shelter which boasted a waterfall for showering.  Being such a gloriously perfect day of wandering around daydreaming I said "Why not" to the mountain shower.

Thursday, April 12, 2012


     Heading out of Erwin my father joined me for the first three miles and he would like me to tell everyone that he didn't struggle or want to turn around once the entire time.  So while he carried my backpack I took the opportunities to take pictures of some of the wild flowers that are popping up everywhere.  Spring is everywhere in the lower elevations with trees blooming and poison ivy constantly try to touch my exposed flesh.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

A Month a Year and Renewal

      I left Hot Springs with a full belly and feeling well rested.  I spent two nights at Elmer's Sunnybank Inn, an old bed and breakfast where Elmer himself cooked these amazing meals for breakfast and dinner.  I also made sure to take a dip in the Hot Springs that the town is named for.  My food was resupplied by a lady named Kayah who offered to bring me these special Indian dinners by Tasty Bite I've been eating, but couldn't get in town. So as I ascended the mountain out of Hot Springs I had a warm feeling from all the positivity that befell me there.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Smokin' (Part 2)

     I left Newfound Gap before noon and headed back into the Smokies under overcast skies with a cool wind blowing from the west.  I seem to always return to the woods with renewed energy and purpose.  I glided up the hills as the blood started pumping into my legs and I began sweating for the first time of the day. 

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Smokin' (Part 1)

     I left Fontana dam on a cloudy wind swept day around noon with my father in tow.  All the maps had indicated that I could expect to be walking uphill most of the day.  I felt good, no pains, plenty of energy and raring to go.  My pop and I shortly said farewell and I was off alone again.  For some odd reason I have been able to walk at a pretty fast, steady pace while going uphill.  This time was no exception either.  I just kept chugging like a train up, up, up.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Machete Mitch

     I am not foreseeing the ability to post for a while so I will leave you with a story that has been moving along the trail with me.

Friday, March 23, 2012


     Walking up and out of Frankilin, NC I felt great.  It was a beautiful day, if not a little warm.  Two small blue butterflies danced around me as I climbed my first hill of the day.  Signs of new life were slowly emerging from the forest floor.  Little white, yellow and blue, at least I think they're blue, flowers were popping up all over the place.  Green grass was sprouting through leaf litter bordering the trail.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Breaking In

     I set out from the same spot where I got off a few days ago with a new rain jacket, new hiking pants and a new set of hiking poles.  I felt like a new man as I started climbing out of a place called Unicoi Gap heading towards Tray mountain.  My hiking poles seemed pretty intuitive to use, but I grew up skiing so maybe that has something to do with it.  "Crap!" I left my camera with my father.  Oh well, it's gorgeous day, I can't let that get me down.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Roller Coaster

      After a half a day with my friend, the frozen pea bag, I headed back out on the trail feeling reinvigorated.  My pops hiked to the top of the first mountain with me and even carried my pack up it.  While we were going up we were sporadically passed by army rangers running down the mountain.  Smiles and pleasantries were not returned.  They looked as if they would be lashed and hung upside down by their knee caps if they were the last ones down or showed any signs that they were enjoying themselves.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

3 days in

     Started at Amicalola falls state park around eleven thirty on Thursday morning.  My father joined me on the walk to the top of the falls.  There are something like 460 steps to the top.  My father made sure I paced my self by stopping on every other series of steps.  I am actually very thankful that he did.  I think that I would have just ran up them in my excitement and then have been spent already.  We said our farewells at the top and  I set off alone.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

T'was the night before...

      Flight from San Diego started under overcast skies before dawn.  I had the entire row of 3 to myself, so I am thinking this will be a wonderful flight.  Right before they close the doors to the plane a lady toting her infant in a car seat makes her way down the aisle and sits directly behind me.  Great.  Fantastic.  Now I have to listen to a baby crying the entire flight.  Turns out the baby wasn't loud at all, but the mother was horrible.  She coochie cooed that little baby at the top of her lungs, was incessantly rattling something at the kid and coughing.

Monday, March 5, 2012

A day away

"You're Nuts!"


"Are you bringing a gun?"

"Will you at least bring pepper spray?"

"What about bears?"

"You're walking? The whole way? On foot!?"