Monthly Archives: October 2014

Farewell to Appalachia

As my entire hike flashed before my eyes, Springer Mtn. loomed ever nearer. I had a mere 21 miles to the finish from highway 60. I was so excited to be finished, but at the same time, I did not want to leave the woods which have been my home for the past 5 months. The people, scenery, and the wildlife have made this trip one to remember. I walked over the last stretch of Georgian Trail and stopped a mile short of the summit at big stamp gap, which was a forest road. I only had to wait ten minutes for my parents. What I didn’t realize was that my grandparents were in the car as well. I was so emotional, I had to turn away from the camera. The five of us hiked the last mile together and I reached the summit at 4 pm on October 22, 2014. I was feeling many emotions, but happiness overcame every one of them. I had just walked pretty much the entire length of the eastern seaboard and I was happy as a clam. We had beers to celebrate and my buddy Marcus and I celebrated our hike together. We had a celebratory dinner afterwords and I fell asleep late at the hotel.

This journey was everything and more and I can’t wait for my next adventure! Thank you to my support team! I couldn’t have done it without you guys!

In the famous words of John Muir, “The mountains are calling, and I must go.”

Fish

General Stats/Other Info

1. I walked 2,186 miles in 4 months and 20 days.

2. I walked through 14 different states:
-Maine
-New Hampshire
-Vermont
-Massachusetts
-Connecticut
-New York
-New Jersey
-Pennsylvania
-Maryland
-West Virginia
-Virginia
-Tennessee
-North Carolina
-Georgia

3. I walked through two national parks and eight national forests.

4. One in four hikers complete a thru hike. 10% of all thru hikers are SOBO.

5. There are more people all time who have summited Mt. Everest than have completed a SOBO thru hike all time.

Fish

Favorite things about the trail

1. The White Mountains of New Hampshire. I liked this because I was above tree line for the majority of the time and I got great views! Also, the weather was cooler. It’s a lot better that hot and humid.

2. Southern Pennsylvania. I really enjoyed being close to home and walking through farmland and paralleling streams. My favorite town on the entire trail is Boiling Springs, PA. It’s a fly-fishing town so go figure.

3. The Smokey Mtns. Even though It was foggy and rainy most of the time, I got to hike with my dad for a couple of days which made for a good experience. I enjoyed the company and the extra food!

4. Trail magic. My favorite one was in New York. The cooler was filled with sugary drinks, little Debbie’s, tuna packets, a variety of fruit, and bagels, which were my favorite. My buddy and I took our lunch break there.

5. The people. Everyone was very friendly and out to help everyone else. I felt like I was part of a community with the same goal in mind; to reach the finish. And to enjoy nature of course.

Fish

What I Would Do Differently

There are few things that I would do differently on my thru hike. This trip was everything and more.

1. Wear non-gore-tex boots. My boots were so breathable, that water would seep right through my boots and once inside, would hold water until dried. It would take days to dry my boots. I’m definitely going to buy better waterproof boots next time.

2. Carry a smaller pack. I felt that I had a lot of extra space in my pack. Also, my pack weighed close to three pounds empty. I currently have a 65 liter pack. If I had to do my thru hike over again, I would go with the 46 liter pack.

3. Take less zero days, and plug in more Nero days. Zero days slow down your pace and can make your muscles stiff. At least a Nero day gets your legs moving.

That’s pretty much it folks.

Fish

What I learned on the Trail

Here’s what I learned on the trail:

1. Hike your own hike. Don’t worry about where all of the other hikers are. In time, you will cross paths agin. Also, there is no such thing as first place on the trail. It is not a race.

2. Learn to appreciate the small things in life. In the real world, modern convinces such as a car, a hot shower, and the radio can be taken for granted. On the trail, there are no such things. When they come around once in a while when off the trail, you’ll feel blessed that you share these convinces with people in the civilized world.

3. There are few things that are of most importance. Relationships with family, friends, and God will keep you on track and help to keep priorities straight. Also, education is a monumental tool that can benefit you and others in everyday life and save lives when sudden emergencies strike.

4. It is important to think positive thoughts. Negativity will destroy you and force you to quit a thru hike in the end. To be honest, there were a couple of times where I wanted to quit, but then I remembered how great it would feel to finish the trail and be reunited with family. Positive thinking makes all of the distance!

5. Keep yourself heathy! Being healthy allows you to hike many miles a day for day on end. Getting sick will make the chances of completing a thru hike in a timely manner more slim.

Fish

Day 139-142: Franklin, NC to Woody Gap, GA 60

Howdy folks!

As my hike draws to a close, I can’t help but smile at the thought of what I’ve accomplished and the experience that I’ve had these past four and a half months. More specifically, the views that I’ve seen, the people that I’ve met, and the variety of wildlife spotted have made this trip one of the best of my life. I think I’ve matured more as a man, learned the true meaning of hard work and perseverance, and had the strength to overcome adversity, especially when hiking through eight straight days of rain! I have constantly thanked God for this opportunity and the fact that I have stayed healthy every day. I did not get sick once!!

Anyway, the trail in Southern Appalachia is beautiful, however the trail does not have many switchbacks so the trail is usually very steep when going up a mountain. It’s not like the gradual ascents in the Smokies or Virginia. Also, the elevation goes up and down repeatedly for miles on end!! The one thing that makes it worth the hike is the abundance of oak trees! Despite being more difficult than I thought, Georgia is one of my favorite states on the trail. I can picture myself hiking this section again sometime. It’s hard to believe I’m only 21 miles away from the finish! My parents will hike the last mile with me. I couldn’t have pictured a better ending.

Fish

My diet-What I Eat on a Daily Basis

Calories are important, so I eat a lot of processed food. Here is my overall diet for the trail

Breakfast:
-Two cherry pop tarts (sometimes I spread peanut butter, Nutella, honey, or a combination of all three onto the pop tarts)
-Nature valley breakfast biscuits (1 package)

I ate instant oatmeal from Maine to Southern Vermont

Lunch:
-1 packet of tuna salad or tuna albacore (I usually mix in honey with the latter)
-1 builders protein bar (vanilla almond or chocolate mint)

I ate spam in a burrito and a snickers bar from Maine to Southern Vermont

Dinner:
-Knorr pasta sides, rice sides, or Asian sides (Asian noodles and butter flavored pasta were my favorites)

I ate ramen noodles mixed in with instant mashed potatoes from Maine to Southern Vermont

Snacks (I would eat these while hiking on the trail
-Anything under the Little Debbie label
-Snickers bars
-Mr Goodbars
-Hershey bars
-Pay days
-Trail mix
-Processed meat (slim Jim’s, pepperoni, pickled sausage)
-Crackers

I would use peanut butter, Nutella, and honey as a spread for the Little Debbie snacks to add extra calories

There was a time when I ate an entire container of Nutella and a one pound jar of peanut butter!

This is what fueled me on my hike. I can’t wait to eat real food when I get home!

Fish

Trail Names

Here are some of the trail names that I’ve come across during my journey:

Pan
Sky Chicken
Cannonball
Boulder dash
Sandals
Deadhead
Many Homes
Blue Velvet
The Gardner
Toey
Spoons
Gilligan
The Hungarian Revolution
Fiver
Padre
Lone star
Rare breed
Sassafras
Lemongrass
Calamity Jane

Fish

Trail Terms

NOBO-this stands for northbound. This is someone who hikes from south to north.

SOBO-this stands for southbound. This is someone who hikes from north to south

GAME-a hiker who goes from Georgia to Maine. Same as NOBO.

MEGA-a hiker who goes from Maine to Georgia. Same as SOBO.

Thru hiker-someone who completes a long distance trail in one uninterrupted trip.

Section hiker-someone who hikes parts of the trail at different times.

Flip flopper-someone who starts in the middle and hikes to one end, and then hikes to the other end from the original starting point. The most popular place to start a flip flop hike is Harpers Ferry, West Virginia.

LASHER-this stands for long ass section hiker. This is someone who does the trail in large sections, usually totaling anywhere from 500-1000 miles.

Blue blazer-someone who takes side trails to skip hard sections of trail or to take a shortcut into town.

White blazer-also known as a purist. This is someone who keeps strictly to the trail and does not take shortcuts or skip sections of trail.

Yellow blazer-someone who skips sections of trail via car.

Pink blazer-someone who meets a woman along the trail and joins itineraries shortly after. Some pink blazers get engaged at the end of their trip, usually on Mt. Katahdin.

Slack packer-someone who does not carry a full sized pack with them, usually a day pack. You can cover a lot of miles this way. In my opinion, I think this is cheating. No pain, no gain!

Yo-yo-someone who thru hikes the trail in one direction and then turns around and thru hikes the trail back towards the original starting point. This is for people who are insane and are ambitious enough to do a total of 4,400 miles in one trip. This undertaking would take about six months to over a year, not to mention having to deal with snow and ice at higher elevations.

Fish

Day 135-138: Cable Gap Shelter to Franklin, NC

Hey guys!

Well what can I say? I’ve been hiking in rain for 8 straight days. This is a true test of perseverance. Anyway, made it to Franklin, NC where I’m taking a much needed rest day. Haven’t had one since Daleville, VA. I pushed hard but I’ve enjoyed every minute of the trail. I’ve seen some amazing views. I can’t believe I have just 110 miles left. 5 days should do it. I plan to be finished on the 22nd of October!! Very excited about reaching he finish. Sends chills down my spine just thinking about the end.

Fish

Day 128-134: Smokey Mountains National Park

Howdy folks!

As the highest peaks of the AT loomed closer, I couldn’t help but smile as my journey was almost complete. There was just one challenge that stood between me and the finish. I was confident in my ability to to take on the mountains strong. After all, I had over 4000 feet of climbing to get up on the high ridges.

I met my dad in newfound gap which was 31 miles into the park. We hiked from there to Fontana Dam which is the southern boundary of the park. It rained every day we hiked plus it was foggy and windy so we didn’t have many views. However, this was quickly remedied because my dad was with me at the highest point on the entire trail (Clingman’s Dome), when I hit the 200 miles left to go marker at thunderhead mountain, and when I got inducted into the 2000 miler club!!!

He motivated me to push strong to the finish. When he got in the car to leave, I knew it would only be a short 9 days until I saw my family again. 165 miles to go!!! I will finish on the 22nd of October. Let me just say that this adventure has been quite a ride. I appreciate all of he support!

Fish

Day 123-127: roan high knob shelter to hot springs, nc

Howdy folks!

These past couple of days have been sketchy with weather. There was a cold snap where it got down to freezing at night and it was windy. I seriously considered buying gloves. Anyway, looking forward to the Smokey Mountains! I will be hiking with my dad for a few days and he will be with me when I hit 2000 miles. All I can say is, where has the time gone?

Fish

P.s. I’m 274 miles out and 1912 miles in!

Day 118-122: Damascus VA to Roan High Knob Shelter

Howdy folks!,

The past couple of days have been quite pleasant and full of adventure. The feeling of finally reaching Damascus was a major turning point. I was only 4 miles from the border. However, before I left the hostel, a huge wave of home sickness hit me. I missed my family and friends and it was still another twenty something days before I would see them again. I did feel better when I finally left town and I camped right at the border. I was so happy to be in Tennessee!!! Virginia is the longest state on the trail with roughly 540 miles and it can be mental. It was one of the biggest mental challenges I had to overcome but I did not get the infamous “Virginia blues.”

The trail in Tennessee is nothing short of beautiful. There were hardly any rocks and there were lots of stepping stones. I also got to see a waterfall and some trail maintenance people installing a bridge. They sure make my life easier! Anyway, there was a lot of ridge walking for most of the state. At the very end, the mountains started again and I had my toughest climb in months. In the middle of the climb, I crossed the border into North Carolina!! I caught a glimpse of Roan Mountain which is above 6000 feet and would be near my camping area for the night. The shelter that I’m staying at on October 1st is the highest shelter on the AT at around 6100 feet! It sure will get chilly up here! Anyway, the leaves are amazing and I can only imagine how they will look when I get into the Smokeys.

I have 375 miles left and feeling great! Hope you guys are too.

Fish