Appalachian Trail Thru Hike - Jersey Joe Alaya 2002
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"I'll have plenty of time to rest when I'm dead." - Jersey Joe Alaya

Sunday March 17

Appalachian Trail Miles Hiked: 11.3
Miles from Springer Mountain: 2.5
Stayed at Stovercreek

Amacola Falls, Start of Hike Happy St. Patrick's Day! Today I hit the trail! Yesterday my brother Andrew drove me the 14 hours down to Dawsonville where we stayed in a hotel. Having him drive me down here was HUGE! Just getting driven to the trailhead and seen off was so much more comforting to me than having to fly down. Today we woke up at 6:00am, showered and headed to Waffle House for a big breakfast. This will be my last shower, real meal, and night in a bed for a long time. Then Andy drove me to the Amacola State Forest where the approach trail to Springer Mountain starts. Now, as if 2162 miles isn't enough, the traditional way to get to the beginning of the Appalachian Trail is via an 8.8 mile approach trail that goes straight up a mountain. Amacola Falls Archway, start of approach trailI started hiking at about 9AM and finally reached Springer Mtn. and the beginning of the AT at 12:30. It was here that I met for the first time, other thru-hikers. Crumbsnatcher and Wicked were hanging out with their two dogs on top of Springer Mtn. They had completed a thru hike in 99 and were trying to do it again with their dogs. I meant to push on and do another 8 miles but wound up talking to them and getting some valuable advice for about 2 hours. Because of this, I got to Stovercreek shelter at 3:30 and thought it wise to not attempt the 5 plus miles to Hawk shelter. Besides, there was only one guy at this shelter then, so there was room. A little later, this older guy Will showed up and then Crumbsnatcher and Wicked showed up. I cooked a bunch of noodles and now I'm going to hit the sack at about 8PM. It's amazing that after months of planning, I'm finally doing it! It feels good too. My pack is on the heavy side (55lbs) but my legs and feet are fine. A lot of the people seem nervous on their first day, but I'm calm as can be and looking forward to tomorrow.

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Monday March 18

Appalachian Trail Miles Hiked: 12.7
Miles from Springer Mountain: 16.1
Stayed at Gooch Gap

Last night at Stovercreek some dude in the lean-to snored really loudly all night! But I guess I was pretty tired, because I slept rather well anyway. I woke up at 6:30 and made oatmeal for breakfast. I think I'd rather not have warm breakfasts because firing up the stove at 6:45 isn't really convenient. I packed up and said goodbye to Will, Wicked, his dog Flash, Scott (by the way, Scott is a slightly overweight fellow that started hiking with 86 lbs. on his back. He's struggling and I doubt he'll make it all the way, though I really hope he'll prove me wrong. Then I headed out with Crumbsnatcher and his dog "Bear". Incidentally his dog actually looks like a bear, it's huge, overweight, hairy, and black. It scared several hikers along the way, which I found amusing. Crumbsnatcher stayed at Hawk Mtn. Shelter and I said goodbye and moved on. I doubt I'll see any of the fore-mentioned hikers again as I am moving at a far quicker pace than them. I continued on the 8.9 miles to the Gooch Gap shelter. Gooch Gap Shelter - Appalachian Trail GAThe terrain was pretty rugged today and there were many mountains, lots of ups and downs. I arrived at Gooch Gap shelter to find it full of thru hikers. Apparently I was just behind the 20 or so hikers that I met tonight. The hikers here are both young and old and there are even 4 female hikers. I had to jockey for a spot in the full shelter, at the base of everyone's feet. It sure beats setting up my tent though, especially if it rains. Overall after 2 days, I have to say I'm holding up well. My legs are fine, my back is only slightly sore and my feet are holding up besides blisters on my heels, but I'll take care of them with my moleskin. Most importantly my spirits are high and I'm looking forward to hiking tomorrow. Yesterday and today it was in the 70's and I've been sweating through my clothes while hiking. But I guess it beats the cold and rain. I am drinking lots of water to stay hydrated and am constantly eating lots of food to quell my growing appetite. Most people here tonight only plan on going about 8 miles to the next shelter, but I want to do some more miles than that so I'll probably leave most behind, which is ok because while some are nice, I haven't really befriended anyone. Hopefully I'll pick up my mileage tomorrow.

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Tuesday March 19

Appalachian Trail Miles Hiked: 13.7
Miles from Springer Mountain: 28.3
Stayed at Blood Mtn. Shelter

Last night it got windy, but still not cold enough that I can zip up my sleeping bag without sweating. I woke up at 4:30am but just laid there until it got light out at 6:00am. I guess I'm not used to going to bed so early. I packed up my stuff and headed out around 7. The hike today went well. It was a bit colder, and though it didn't rain, it sure looked like it might all day long. The first shelter was about 11.5 miles, but I pushed on up the steep Blood Mtn. and arrived at the Blood Mtn. shelter around 3:00. Stovercreek Shelter - Appalachian Trail GABlood Mtn. is the highest point in Georgia at 4450 feet. The top of the mountain is in a cloud and while on a clear day one can see Atlanta from here, today visibility is only 20 feet. Hopefully tomorrow will be a nicer day. I'm staying in the shelter tonight with 5 others and one dog. They are Falcon, Huck, a woman Claire, Film, and Jason with his dog Lucy. I trailed Falcon and Jason most of the day while I flip flopped with Huck and Film a lot. I'm not putting in the mileage I thought I would, but I guess I didn't take into account all the Mtns. Plus, out of all the people mentioned, I have by far the heaviest pack. I desperately need to reduce my pack weight from around 50 lbs. if I'm going to finish this thing this year. Carrying 10 days worth of food when everyone else has 3 days worth is probably my biggest problem. But In spite of the extra weight, I'm faring very well. My feet feel better than yesterday and I'm starting to get into "trail shape". I've done plenty of running and squats, but there really is nothing that can prepare you for throwing 50 lbs. on your back and climbing up a 2000 foot rocky, muddy mountain. Tomorrow I'll head on through Neels Gap where there is an outdoor store on the trail. It'll be my first taste of the real world in 4 days. I've hiked 37.1 miles so far, and I'm loving every minute of it. I'm actually itching to get back out there tomorrow and do some big mileage.

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Wednesday March 20

Appalachian Trail Miles Hiked: 13
Miles from Springer Mountain: 41.3
Stayed at Low Gap

Today I woke up at Blood MTN and there was still no view. In fact, there was still a cloud all around us and it was raining. Very chilly. I threw on my still wet clothes at about 6:30 and headed down Blood MTN about 2.5 miles to Neels Gap. In Neels Gap there is a little outdoor 'center' with most basic services. There is also a hostel there where you can shower and do laundry. While most of the people I stayed with the past two nights stayed at the hostle, I couldn't justify it.. I've only been out here 4 days, plus I had only done 2.5 miles so far. So, I cut almost 8lbs. off of my pack, mostly un-needed clothes, and sent them home in the mail. Then I bought 2 huge cans of beef stew (6 servings, 1300 calories for both) ate them as lunch, and continued on my way. About a mile after I started up again, it started pouring. I was already drenched in sweat and it wasn't that cold out so I just kept going without raingear. I blew by Whitney Gap Shelter because it was 1.2 miles off the trail. I trudged on soaked completely, even my boots, all the way to Low Gap Shelter. When I got there, the shelter was completely full. I talked with the seemingly unfriendly thru-hikers in the shelter for a couple minutes, then headed off to pitch my tent. I picked a great day to set up my tent for the first time. I filtered some water, gathered a bunch of snack food for dinner and now it's 6:30 and I'm lying in my cramped but dry tent writing. My sleeping bag and a change of clothes is all that I have left that's dry. I figure as long as I can sleep dry, I'll be OK being wet during the day because when I'm hiking I stay warm. That's the plan right now at least, we'll see what happens when it's 30degrees out. It's amazing how much the weather affects a thru-hiker. At home, if it rains, you may walk a little quicker to your car, and you may get depressed because of the bad weather. But out here, a thru-hiker can't escape the elements. When it rains, you get wet. You also know that water source you were relying on will have water. But, I'm dry now, and for that I'm thankful! I wonder how many people back home will be thankful they are warm and dry tonight. It's something we all take for granted. But being out there helps me to appreciate the simpler things more. It's 6:45 and it is getting dark. I think I'll stay here in my tent for the rest of the night. I feel like I should go mingle with the other thru-hikers at the shelter but I'd rather stay warm and dry. While I was at Neels Gap today, I phoned home and spoke to mom. I tweaked some stuff for the food drops and it was very nice to hear a familiar voice. I think she was happy to hear that I was doing ok too.

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Thursday March 21

Days On Trail: 5
Appalachian Trail Miles Hiked: 14.9
Miles from Springer Mountain: 56.2
Stayed at Tray Mtn. Shelter

Today started with me lying awake in my tent listening to rain drops hit my tent. I was, however, dry as my tent had passed its first test. I lied in my tent until 9:00 hoping the rain would stop but it didn't, so I got out of the tent and put on my wet hiking clothes in a light drizzle. Then I packed up my tent and gear and made my way to the now empty lean-to and made myself a warm oatmeal and coffee breakfast. Jason and his dog Lucy were there and were doing a zero day (no mileage) to try and dry out. This was very tempting to me, but I was still shivering and needed to start hiking to warm up. The terrain early on was flat and I ripped through the first 7.5 miles in 3 hours. I opted not to stay at Blue MTN. Shelter since it was still before 11:00. Tray Mountain Shelter - Appalachian Trail GAI decided to push on to Tray MTN. Shelter. The terrain over the next 7.5 miles was real tough but the weather cleared up and got nice and sunny. I managed to dry most of my stuff out. To my surprise, Tray Shelter had room! In fact, there are only 4 of us in here tonight. Right now it's super windy and in the forties. My writing hand is quite numb right now. Great view and spectacular sunset. Cold and dark.

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Friday March 22

Days On Trail: 6
Appalachian Trail Miles Hiked: 14.9
Miles from Springer Mountain: 71.1
Stayed at Plum Orchard Shelter

Last night was a cold one! One guy's thermometer said 21 degrees! And, there was a ferocious wind on top of the mountain. I stayed barely warm enough to sleep but had to keep adjusting my breathing hole all night to stay warm. I woke up at 6:15 and when it's that cold out, the only thing to do to stay warm is hike! So I tossed all my gear in my pack and was on the trail by 7:00. By the way, all my water is frozen. After hiking about 2 miles I warmed up and stopped for breakfast. Most of the terrain was moderate today with only one big MTN. At around 1:00 I crossed Route 76 and there, on a rock, I was blessed by another trail angel. There was a bag of candy bars and cans of soda left for thru-hikers. So I stopped for lunch, and boy does soda taste good after 6 days on the trail! I ate lunch with a couple guys I met that were from the area and just day hiking. Folks sure are friendly in GA!! I got to Plum Orchard Shelter around 4ish. Plum Orchard Shelter - Appalachain Trail GAThis shelter is real nice and has 3 levels. Should be another cold one tonight. So far, the mileage hasn't been that tough but I'm still adjusting. I'm getting used to hiking all day. My feet are OK except my right achilles is acting up. But I'll just hike through the pain. Blisters are hardly a problem. I stopped treating them and am hoping they just turn to calluses. I do have abrasions on the inside of my thighs right above my knees from my wet shorts while hiking. I'm going to have to find a way to stop that. Overall, after two 15 mile days, I feel pretty good.

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Saturday March 23

Days On Trail: 7
Appalachian Trail Miles Hiked: 12.2
Miles from Springer Mountain: 83.3
Stayed at Standing Indian

It was another cold night last night. Water froze up again. Today I woke up with very high expectations to make it 3 shelters down the line and cover 20 miles. It's funny how the body and mind aren't always on the same page though. The terrain wasn't bad but my feet, legs, and right knee were in the worst shape yet. I did manage to get an early start though, and I got to STANDING INDIAN SHELTER early but there was no point pushing on and my body needs the rest. I did, however, reach my first milestone on the trail. Today I crossed out of Georgia and into North Carolina. GA/NC State Line - Appalachain Trail GA, NCI kicked my first state! There are a ton of people at the shelter tonight. Most are just out for the weekend. The shelter isn't far from a road and it's Saturday night. There are a few hikers here, including Pete, who stayed with me last night. Hopefully tomorrow, my legs and feet will cooperate and I'll be able to bang out some mileage.

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Sunday March 24

Days On Trail: 8
Appalachian Trail Miles Hiked: 14.4
Miles from Springer Mountain: 97.7
Stayed at Big Spring Shelter

Today I woke up at 7:30 and was on the trail by 8:00. It wasn't that cold last night thankfully. I hiked most of the day with this guy Pete. It's the first day that I've really hiked with someone all day. I intended to push on to the next shelter, which is 5.3 miles away, but it was already 3:45 when I got to BIG SPRING and I didn't feel like getting stuck in the dark. I felt really good today. Much better since I bandaged up my inner thighs to avoid the abrasion. I set up in the shelter, got water, made dinner, and made a fire. Now I'm just hanging around camp, enjoying the conversation and resting. Tonight there are 5 girls in camp. I can't believe how many girls actually try and thru-hike. There are a bunch of old guys in camp that will chew your ear off if ya let em. But everyone is real friendly. People keep talking about heading into town tomorrow. I don't plan on hitting any towns until I re-supply at FONTANA DAM. I need a shower bad but that can wait.

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Monday March 25

Days On Trail: 9
Appalachian Trail Miles Hiked: 20
Miles from Springer Mountain: 117.7
Stayed at (Tented on Wayahbald Mtn.)

Today feels like it was such a long day. I woke early, at about 6:15, and started packing up. Pete, the guy I've been hiking with also packed up his gear. By 7:00 we were both ready to go. It was a little warmer out this morning, in the 50's, so that made it easier to get ready. It's not too easy tying your bootlaces with frozen fingers. We beat everyone else out of camp and made great time to the next shelter. We did the 5.3 miles in under 2 hours. Then we did the next 4 miles to route 64 almost as fast. Pete is heading into Franklin tonight and hitched a ride from route 64. I seriously debated going with him into town. We had already done 9 miles and he offered to split a room with me. The thought of getting a good meal and a hot shower, plus the fact that I think the NCAA finals are on tonight all weighed heavily, but in the end, I decided to keep hiking. It was such a beautiful day today, and I felt really good. Besides, I know the "NOC" is only 17 miles away and is right on the trail, and Fontana Dam, my re-supply point, is only a couple days away. Everyone says great things about the trail towns, and it seems like everyone I've met has spent at least one night in a trail town. Sometimes I think I might be missing out on part of the experience by not stopping in towns more often. But then I rationalize it by saying that being out here is what I envisioned my trail experience to be like. I'm sure I'll hit enough towns along the way. Besides, I'll have plenty of times to hang out in towns when I get off the trail. Plus, stopping in towns can get real expensive. So, anyway, I said goodbye to Pete, gave him a letter to mail home for me, and continued on. I can't help but think that I won't see Pete again. It seems I'm moving too fast to really pair up with anyone yet. Though I did spend 3 days with Pete. Anyway, once I left route 64, the terrain got much rougher. 4 miles straight up. I knew I'd pass the next shelter, which I did about 1:30. The shelter after that was 12.5 miles further and I figured I had an outside side at reaching that. But the terrain proved too difficult and I stopped and tented it near a water source. Two girls are tenting nearby, and a talkative guy named Kit also came by. I made dinner, which consisted of rice and a can of beef soup that was left at one of the shelters. The 4 of us chatted and then resigned to our tents. Kit and I are sharing a bear-bag line, though I'm more worried about mice and squirrels than bears. The forecast calls for rain tomorrow, which figures because this is only the second time I've used my tent and it rained the last time. I feel really good about putting in my first 20 mile day. If not for the waning daylight, I felt as if I could go further. The plan for tomorrow is to get to the "NOC", which is 17 miles away. Perhaps I could get some real food while I'm there. Maybe I can even use a payphone and call home. Well, I'm looking forward to tomorrow, despite the rain. I should sleep very well tonight after a long, tough day. I'll fall asleep thinking of when my journey takes me through Jersey, and my family and friends (Brian, Mark, Dan, Markley) take me out to the outback for a big dinner, mmm cheese fries!!! Fine, Dana can come too :)

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Tuesday March 26

Days On Trail: 10
Appalachian Trail Miles Hiked: 16.4
Miles from Springer Mountain: 134.1
Stayed at Hostel at NOC

Well, all that talk about stopping in towns and here I am at 10:30 lying in a warm bed at a campground near the Nanthala outdoor 'center' on U.S. 19. Today I woke at 6:30 and thunderstorms in the forecast. I packed up and was on my way by 7. About an hour later, the clouds opened up and it poured nearly the whole day. It was almost a 17 mile hike to the NOC, but the thought of some real food kept my legs moving. The last 5 miles is a long descent and both of my knees were hurting me pretty badly. But I got down to the main road and found out that the local hostel was full. So here I am, all wet, still raining, with the thought of nowhere to stay. A little detective work and I found out that there were cabins up the road for $25 and $5 each extra person. So, I asked the two girls, Becky and AJ and the guy Kit, all of whom I spent the previous night with, if they wanted to split a cabin. Having no other alternative, we all agreed it was a good idea. The cabin owner picked us up in his pickup truck and we got a cute little cabin with 2 bunk beds for $11 each. Then the cabin owner offered to drive us to a steakhouse up the road. We gladly accepted and 8 of us piled in the back of the truck and went off to dinner. I got a great steak and cheese sandwich with fries and salad bar. Boy did it feel good to eat real food again. Right now, I'm lying in bed while about 100 articles of clothes lie around the room drying. Tomorrow, I'll probably get a late start and won't get many miles in. I really hope my knees get better soon. Oh, and by the way, I got my first shower in 10 days tonight, and it feels great!!!

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Wednesday March 27

Days On Trail: 11
Appalachian Trail Miles Hiked: 6.9
Miles from Springer Mountain: 141
Stayed at Sassafras Gap Shelter

Appalachain Trail NCWell, today I only hiked just under 7 miles, but they were all straight up. I woke up in my nice cozy cabin at 8:00 and took a shower. I packed up and caught the 9:30 truck into town. I ate breakfast with Becky, AJ, Kit, and Cooperstown Kid and eating bacon and eggs again was great. Then I headed out of town and up a real long steep mountain. I hiked most of it with Skate and Kit. Tonight at the shelter is my third night in a row with Kit, which is a tie for the most nights I've spent with one person. Now I'm sitting by the fire enjoying conversation. There is an older fella by the name of Brushy Sage here, I believe he's in his 70's. It amazes me how older folks can hike up and down these mountains. I spoke to Cristina and Crock on the phone today. Again, it's really great to hear familiar voices. Total Spent in Wesser: $11 for cabin, $2 for 2 sodas, $13 for dinner +tip, $14 for breakfast +tip +cover Kit. Total=$40.

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Thursday March 28

Days On Trail: 12
Appalachian Trail Miles Hiked: 15.2
Miles from Springer Mountain: 156.2
Stayed at Cable Gap Shelter

Last night I heard mice in the shelter for the first time. It wigged me out at first, but it's amazing how easy it is to ignore stuff when you're sleeping. I woke up at 6:45, and was on the trail shortly after. Today, I hiked alone all day and it was a really nice day out. I got to Cable Gap shelter at 3:30 and realized that I was only 5.5 miles to Fontana Dam where I will re-supply. No use heading into town tonight because the post office will have closed already. Tonight, I'm camping with Kit, Skate, and Rachel again. There are a couple of guys camping up the hill that are a bit nutty. Hopefully they won't do anything, but we're all on alert. Safety in numbers, I suppose. After Fontana Dam tomorrow, the trail heads into the Smokey Mtn's of Tennessee for about 70 miles. I'm kind of looking forward to hiking the Smokies. Today I tried hiking with walking sticks for the first time to see if they would help my ailing knees. So far I haven't noticed much difference, but I'll use them again tomorrow and we'll see. Last night was in the 30's and I expect tonight will be about as cold. I've started using my space blanket that Reina gave me as a ground cloth in shelters. I think I can get rid of my regular ground cloth now. It's bulky and heavier than the space blanket. I've been trying to finish up the rest of my food since I'll re-supply tomorrow. Even though I just left town, I'm looking forward to hitting Fontana Dam already tomorrow. I was a little worried that the post office would be closed tomorrow for Good Friday, but I've been reassured that it'll be open. That got me thinking of how I won't be able to spend Easter with my family and got me wondering what Easter will be like this year.

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Friday March 29

Days On Trail: 13
Appalachian Trail Miles Hiked: 6.6
Miles from Springer Mountain: 162.8
Stayed at Fontana Dam "Hilton"

Today was a pretty good Friday. I woke up and lazed around until 7:15. I knew Fontana Dam was only 5.5 miles away so my plan was to leisurely get onto the trail and down into town to pick up my mail drop. It was a beautiful day today, warm with plenty of sunshine. It was cool to see the dam from 5 miles up on the mountain and slowly hike down to it all morning. It's the largest dam east of the Mississippi. When I got down to the water I called for the shuttle into town, which costs $1 each way. I headed to the post office and picked up my food drop. Boy was I spoiled carrying a near empty food bag for the last few days. Along with my food drop I also got a letter from Dana cheering me on in my adventure, which was really nice. Also, a couple of days ago in the middle of my journal I found a note from my sister Cristina wishing me well. That was nice to find that rainy night. It's these little acts of encouragement that help me realize that I'm not in this alone and that I have other people pulling for me. I spent a few hours in town, which is made up of two buildings. I then took the shuttle back to the A.T. and hiked 1.1 miles to the Fontana Dam "Hilton" Shelter. It's called that because it's nice and sleeps up to 20 people. It also has running water and bathrooms. The actual dam is a 5 minute walk away and I took a walk up there before to make a couple phone calls and to watch them light up the dam. There is a great view of the reservoir from the shelter and of the looming Smokey Mountains in the background. Tonight while me and several other thru-hikers were contemplating dinner, a thru-hiker from last year named sweeper ran down to the shelter and told us there was food up in the parking lot if we wanted. You never saw 7 people move so fast! He was there with his parents with hot dogs, soda, milk, chips, cookies, grapes, bananas, and Easter candy! Talk about trail angels. Anyway, I'm so stuffed right now I can't even breathe. Apparently Sweeper and his dad are going to try to hike/run through all 70 miles of the Smokies in 24 hours. That sounded pretty cool to me, and who knows, maybe something to try once I'm done with this thru-hike. (wink, wink!) I have heard about more and more people that I've hiked with dropping out for one reason or another. They say that only 1 in 13 that start this thing actually make it to Katahdin. Hearing that people are dropping out just makes me want to finish even more. My spirits are high. My resolve is strong and my knees are holding out. I look forward to both blowing through and enjoying the Smokies these next few days. Should be fun!

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Saturday March 30

Days On Trail: 14
Appalachian Trail Miles Hiked: 16.7
Miles from Springer Mountain: 179.5
Stayed at Spencefield Shelter

Today I woke up at 7 and hit the trail shortly after. Over the dam and into the Smokies I trudged. It rained all day today and the trails are like streams. The trail was mostly uphill today. Right now I'm about 3,500 feet higher than the dam. I pushed on to the third shelter, which was possibly a mistake because the shelter is full and it's leaking over where I'm sleeping. Should be a fun night. Otherwise, it was a pretty wet uneventful day. Last night around midnight I woke to an incredible thunderstorm. It lasted for about 2 hours and the lightning looked like it was right outside the shelter and the thunder was deafening. It was a very cool experience. So far, the Smokies have been wet and misty. Everything is covered with moss and lichen and visibility is about 10 feet. If the weather doesn't improve, I'll be happy to get out of the Smokies.

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Sunday March 31 (Easter)

Days On Trail: 15
Appalachian Trail Miles Hiked: 11.8
Miles from Springer Mountain: 191.3
Stayed at Silers Bald Shelter

Well, no weather improvement today. It was cold and rainy again. The toughest part about hiking in the rain is waking up and putting on cold wet clothes. I have dry socks but there is no point in putting dry socks into wet boots. Today I planned on hiking on to the next shelter but there is something about the rain that makes you want to stop and get dry. So here I am at 5:00 in my bag just happy to be dry. I sure hope it's nice out tomorrow so I can dry out. I have started to walk with two walking sticks. I seems like a lot of people are using ski poles while hiking. I've opted for the much cheaper wood version. I figure that using sticks will take some pressure off my knees and also I figured that it couldn't hurt in helping to keep my upper body in shape. There is a weird tradition out here where everyone that is thru-hiking adopts a trail name. Some people choose their own and others just kind of get them, usually from something stupid they've done. It's an easy way to remember people's names too. My trail name isn't very good, but it's better than just Joe. It is "Jersey Joe.'' I've noticed that now when people ask who I am, they rarely ask the usual follow-up question, "Where ya from?" I did run into a little more trail magic today. The Tennessee Trail Association had a few of its members out handing out candy for Easter. Besides that, this day hasn't been very Easterly. Part of me wishes I could be at Nana's house right now eating shrimp, anti-pasta, eggs, and a nice big dinner with the rest of the family. But another part of me knows that I will never have another Easter quite like this one.

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Monday April 1

Days On Trail: 16
Appalachian Trail Miles Hiked: 15.5
Miles from Springer Mountain: 206.8
Stayed at Icewater Spring Shelter

Clingman's Dome - Appalachain Trail TN Well, it finally happened. Today I stepped on a loose rock and rolled my ankle. It's so swollen and I think it's broken. Tomorrow I'll have to hobble 3 miles back to the road and into town to get it looked at. I'm pretty sure my thru-hike is over though. It really stinks! April Fools! I'm actually fine. No injuries, thank goodness. Today I woke up at 6:30 and amazingly it wasn't raining. It was, however, frigid outside and my water was again frozen. So, once again I had to go through the much-dreaded drill of putting on cold, frozen clothes, packing up camp and hiking as fast as I could to warm up. The worst part was that my boots were still wet. Anyway, I soon warmed up and made it to the top of the Clingmans Dome, the highest point on the A.T., which is 6,643 ft. There is a fire tower there and it was clear out so there were splendid views. I then ran into the ridge runner who was cleaning a shelter and he offered to let me stay at his cabin for the night to dry out. I gratefully declined, figuring it was a nice day and I could dry out on my own. Besides, I wound up doing 4 more miles to this shelter. I crossed Newfound Gap today which is basically the only road that crosses through the Smokies. I got to the shelter around 5ish and made mac+cheese for dinner. The view from this shelter is very nice and I built a fire for everyone here. I feel good that I'm over 200 miles. I'm happy my boots are nearly dry. I'm glad that it's April and I'm still hiking and still enjoying myself.

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Tuesday April 2

Days On Trail: 17
Appalachian Trail Miles Hiked: 27.4
Miles from Springer Mountain: 234.2
Stayed at Davenport Gap Shelter

Today I woke at 6 to a shelter that faced East and had a brilliant view of the sunrise. I was up before the sun and watched it rise. The view reminded me of one of those stupid inspirational posters I saw once. The quote on the poster said…. "Every Morning Starts a New Day of Opportunity.'' This can mean just about anything to anybody, but for me it meant heading out early and using the early start to put in some good mileage. I headed out intending to do 19 miles to the third shelter. When I got to the third shelter it was 4 and I felt pretty strong so I pushed on the 8 miles to the next shelter and made it there just before dark. 27.4 miles! Wow! My first marathon day. It feels good to write that. But the last 5 miles were a little painful. Well, that was one of my goals coming out here, to have a marathon day, and I've done it. I hiked the first 20 miles today and didn't see a soul. Talk about solitude. Most of the trail today followed the ridgeline and it was a clear day so there were some great views. I got to the shelter and there was one spot left, lucky me! I'm sitting by the warm fire right now and I'm exhausted. All my muscles ache and my feet hurt. I'll definitely sleep well tonight. Most people are sleeping in the shelter now. But there are four guys out for a few days on their spring break sitting around the fire with me. They gave me some smoked sausage they had. Boy was that good. It's funny to hear them talk about college life. Classes, girls and friends. It's amazing to think how far I've come since college. But I did complement them on their choice to camp in the Smokies over partying at the beach for spring break. Anyway, a long, hard day is done. I'm not sure if there is such a thing as hiker high but it felt like it out there today. Going to bed and hope to avoid the mice tonight.

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Wednesday April 3

Days On Trail: 18
Appalachian Trail Miles Hiked: 10.5
Miles from Springer Mountain: 244.7
Stayed at Groundhog Creek Shelter

Today I staggered out of camp. I was the last thru-hiker out of the shelter and only the college guys were left. I figured I deserved the slow start after yesterday's mileage. The forecast calls for rain but the morning seemed nice enough. I made it to Davenport Gap which is the end of the Smokies, by 9 am. Most people headed down the road to "Mtn. Mamas" for a hostel/resupply store, but I pushed on. Hot Springs is only a day or two away. I crossed route 40 and headed up a steep mountain, which rose 3,000 ft over 5 miles. I got to this shelter and it just started to drizzle. My original plan was to hoof it 16 miles up to Max Patch, which is a grassy mtn. Top where they cleared it long ago to graze animals. They say it has great views and you can even land small planes there. It would have been a great place to camp but the weather forecast is calling for thunderstorms tonight and I figure the top of a bald mtn. isn't exactly the brightest idea. So it's either pull up at this shelter after just over 10 miles or push on 12 more to the next shelter. I didn't think I had another 20+ day in me and it started drizzling so I held up. I made some dinner and relaxed a bit. It's getting cold out so I'll probably turn in early. It's amazing. It's 5 p.m. and I'm already thinking about bed. I have definitely had plenty of ours of sleep to recover. Of course, I wake up about 15 times each night for one reason or another. I hope all the rain falls tonight and it's dry tomorrow. Hot Springs is about 25 miles from here and I sure do want to get t here bad to shower, do some laundry, and eat some real food. It's tempting to pull another long day to get into town but the terrain is rough and the weather is suspect so it doesn't look promising. At least I'll be dry tonight here in the shelter.

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Thursday April 4

Days On Trail: 19
Appalachian Trail Miles Hiked: 26.2
Miles from Springer Mountain: 270.9
Stayed at Campground in Hot Springs

Campground at Hot Springs - Appalachain Trail NCYesterday and last night it never did get any worse than a drizzle. Sleeping was tough because we had 7 people cramming in there real tight and 3 people decided to snore loudly all night. I got up at 6:30 and it was real cold so I hit the trail asap to warm up. I made it to the top of Max Patch by 10 a.m. and boy is that a great mtn. It's all grass for about a square mile and the 360-degree view was awesome. I ate lunch and sat on top for a half hour. Then I headed down and hiked for a few hours to the next shelter., this put me at about 12:30 and 11.8 miles to the next shelter and about 13 into Hot Springs. Quite the dilemma, stay and make it a 13-mile day and another 13 into town tomorrow? Push on to the shelter, or to town? Well, there were 4 of us, me, Boston Joe, Will and Dan. We all finally talked each other into heading into town and we hiked the last few miles into Hot Springs together. Coming down that last mountain was real painful for me. It was quite an accomplishment for me to do my second marathon day in 3 days. I guess the thought of real food kept me hiking. We all wound up tenting out in a campsite for $5. I was a little disappointed because I kind of wanted something with 4 walls and heat, but this campsite at least has showers so that's nice. And I figure I'm saving some money too. We went across the street to the local restaurant/pub and I got a burger, fries, a salad and a Guiness. Boy did it all taste good. In the backroom there were about 20 thru-hikers eating and drinking and having a good time. It was quite a sight to say the least. I even saw some ESPN,, my first TV since being out here. I didn't even realize that baseball season already started! We left there around 10 and I wasn't feeling so hot so I just got in my tent and am about to pass out. Laundry and shower tomorrow morning.

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Friday April 5

Days On Trail: 20
Appalachian Trail Miles Hiked: 5.9
Miles from Springer Mountain: 276.8
Stayed at (Tented at Tanyard Gap)

Today was a very odd day. Last night I didn't feel well and woke up about 3am and drank a bunch of water thinking it would make me feel better, but I immediately threw it right back up, so I went back to bed. I woke up feeling groggy but ok. The campsite I stayed in was odd. Chickens and roosters were cock-a-doodle-dooing all morning. And contrary to popular belief, they DON'T wait for the sun to rise to start cock-a-doodling. These roosters were going at it at 4am! Another interesting feature about the campsite was that it sat about 50 yards from train tracks and 4 times during the night it felt like the train was running over my tent as it went by. I got up about 8am and broke camp. I then took the coldest + most uncomfortable outside shower ever, but it was nonetheless a shower, my first in 10 days and much needed. Next I headed over to do laundry for the first time and my smelly sox sure needed it. While my laundry was being cleaned, I went to the diner for lunch. I got the salsbury steak special with mashed potatoes, peas, and cornbread and washed it down with two tall pepsis. Boy was that a good meal! Next I went over to the post office and mailed home my used map of the smokies and a bunch of journal entries. I also picked up my food box, which is real heavy because it has 10 days worth of food in it. That'll be an extra 20lbs on my back for a while, ugh! But I also got a postcard from Dana from Key West. That's a good feeling when the mail lady brings over your box, which I expect, and also brings something else. So far, Dana has been my biggest cheerleader, which has been nice. I then called home and spoke to my two brothers and my mom, I discussed tweaking my food drops with mom and as always, good to hear familiar voices. I also spoke to Brian and Reina and got some info on what's going on. For instance, Bri told me that Maryland won the NCAA tourney, good to know! I then realized that I could check my email at the outfitter store. As it turns out, the lure worked because as I waited the 25 minutes for the girl in front of me to finish, I bought a $20 pair of camp shoes. I really did need camp shoes and I didn't feel like holding out any longer for $2.00 flip flops. They are like socks with hard rubber bottoms. Real light. I then checked my email and was surprised at how many people wished me well. I responded to as many people as possible, but my 30 min time limit limited me. So if you wished me well and I didn't respond, thanks to all of you! It's nice to know friends and family are rooting for me. Hopefully these stupid journal entries will help everyone understand what I'm going through a bit clearer. Anyway, I had planned on leaving town by 1:00 and hoofing the 10 miles to the first shelter. But as towns have a way of doing, my time was sucked away and I didn't leave till 5pm. But not before I bought a quart of chocolate milk, 8 servings of bologna, 12 individually wrapped slices of cheese, and a bag of potato chips. For dinner of course. I headed out expecting to tent 2-3 miles up the hill, but before I knew it I had passed up one too many good camp spots and the trail was now skirting the side of a mountain. So I wound up hiking till 8pm in the dark with the aid of a headlamp. I wound up going 5.9 miles and setting up camp in the dark. When I say setting up camp I mean, pitching the tent, rolling out my mat and sleeping bag, hanging the bear bag (food) and eating dinner. And to think, I could be in town still listening to live bluegrass. The things I'll do to avoid a zero day. Well, this is the first night I'm tenting alone. I have to admit, there's nothing quite like walking and camping in the woods, alone. Especially when it's dark. I wouldn't say I'm scared but all my senses are definitely on edge. Every sound is questioned. Well, it's cold tonight and my headlamp is dead.

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Saturday April 6

Days On Trail: 21
Appalachian Trail Miles Hiked: 20.4
Miles from Springer Mountain: 297.2
Stayed at Jerry Cabin Shelter

I woke to a chilly morning at 6:15. I was happy to see that no animals got to my food bag overnight. I broke camp quickly and hit the trail. I stopped a few miles up and checked out the fire tower there. Way too windy and cold to eat breakfast there. I made it to the first shelter by 10:00 and had b'fast, which turned out to be 8 Kraft single slices and a big bag of BBQ chips (holdovers from Hot Springs). I got to the next shelter at 3 and decided to eat lunch then push on the 6.7 miles to the next shelter. I got to Jerry Cabin Shelter after 6:00 and hurried to make dinner. It gets dark about 7:00 now. Dinner consisted of 2 packets of Lipton noodles and sauce with 2 cans of tuna and powdered milk mixed in. Very Good! I washed dishes, brushed my teeth and got into my sleeping bag just in time for darkness to set in. Today I felt real groggy hiking for most of the day. I can't help but wonder if I'm not sick with some kind of bug or something. I think it's just because my pack is so heavy again. I resupplied in Hot Springs with 10 days worth of food. That's about 20 lbs. on my back. I should be doing more frequent food drops to avoid carrying so much weight. I figured out today that a heavier pack puts so much more strain on my knee and that was probably the reason why they gave me so much of a problem in the beginning. Well, only 4 people in the shelter tonight and one guy tenting. I've already seen 2 mice but I'm so used to them now that I hardly pay them any notice. Well off to another well deserved sleep!

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Sunday April 7

Days On Trail: 22
Appalachian Trail Miles Hiked: 14.6
Miles from Springer Mountain: 311.8
Stayed at Hogback Shelter

Last night was real cold again. It got into the 20's. Thank goodness for my 20 degree sleeping bag. I knew that there was a shelter 14.6 miles away and the next one was over 24 miles away. After my sluggish day yesterday with my huge food bag, I knew there was no way I was doing 24 miles so I slept in till 8:15 and didn't get on the trail till 9:00. It felt good to plan a lazy day. Its funny how I now consider 14.6 miles lazy. Most of todays hike was uphill, I went over 3 big Mtns. I hiked part of the day with this guy "Two Scoops". He's got a journal on and I figured it'd be cool to see if he talked about me on there. I got to the shelter at about 4:30 and was happy to be in camp while it was still light out. The water source at this shelter was a quarter mile away, which is freakin far! Luckily there was a guy already at the shelter and he was just out for the week and already had a fire going and a radio going. I turned my watch ahead an hour today. It really doesn't matter because I function from sun to sundown. But from now on the times in my journal will be the new times. There are 5 of us in the shelter tonight and we rigged up some plastic in front of the entrance to keep the wind out so, it should be alright tonite, though one of the guys' thermometers says 37 degrees right now at 9PM. Time for bed. Going to try for a 20+ mile day tomarrow.

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Monday April 8

Days On Trail: 23
Appalachian Trail Miles Hiked: 20.6
Miles from Springer Mountain: 332.4
Stayed at No Business Knob Shelter

Hit the trail today by 9:00 (new time). I hiked about 3 miles when I came up to Sam's Gap. About 100 yds from the road crossing there was a cooler full of sodas. Nice trail magic. One of the hostels up the way left the sodas I suppose as sort of an advertisement. Later on I came to the top of a seven mile climb. The top of the Mtn. was bald and the wind was ferocious. It's a good thing the temps today were in the 40's and not the 20's because I'd have frozen otherwise. The gales on the top had to be between 50 and 70 mph. I would spit and it would take off and not hit the ground. I found myself laughing out loud because I couldn't even walk straight. The rest of the day was pretty uneventful. I got into camp around 6:30 and made some Lipton Noodles and ramen. Now I'm lying down a bit after 8:00 and real tired and thinkin of bed. I did forget my walking sticks somewhere today and hiked most of the day without them. Right now I'm only 6 miles from the road that goes to Erwin where most people are headed for mail drops and other town conveniences. I have not yet decided if I'll stop in town yet. Tomorrow calls for rain, fun, fun! My right knee was acting up on downhills again today. Tomorrow looks like another 20, albeit a wet 20.

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Tuesday April 9

Days On Trail: 24
Appalachian Trail Miles Hiked: 10.5
Miles from Springer Mountain: 342.9
Stayed at Curley Maple Gap Shelter

Today started off drizzly and I figured it'd be a wet day but I was pleasantly surprised because it turned out to be a pretty nice day out. I hiked the 6 miles down to the road and they were a relatively easy 6 miles mostly downhill. I wasn't planning on going into Erwin but right on the trail is Uncle Johnny's Hostel. I walked by intending to keep on hiking but Uncle Johnny was getting into his car about to take another hiker into town and he offered me a ride, so I said sure, why not. On the 3 mile ride into town we picked up two hitchhiking backpackers who turned out to be 2 girls that I met yesterday, Jennica and Lauren. It's funny how out here when you meet someone once, the next time you meet it's like your long lost friends. Anyway, Uncle Johnny took us to a place called Pizza Plus. This place had an all you can eat buffett for #3.99. It included all kinds of pizza, a full salad bar, and choice of drinks. I couldn't ask for anything more. So I sat with the girls and pigged out. It turns out they worked for and are actually hiking to raise money for Habitat For Humanity, which made for interesting conversation since I volunteered last year for them with work associates building a house. Before we were finished there were 5 other thru-hikers doing the buffet thing too. One thing I noticed today is that I really have a craving for soda, mainly Coke or Pepsi. Before coming out here I would avoid soda and prefer juice or iced tea, but for some inexplicable reason I crave soda. Anyway, after finishing my hour long meal, and yes the thought did cross my mind to take a nap, wake up and go up for more, I hobbled out of there and bought some double A batteries at the dollar store. Apparently the 6 batteries I took from home were on the "Dead Battery" pile. Either that or my headlamp is going through batteries faster than I went through pepperoni slices today (and that's pretty fast). By the way, sales tax in Tennessee is 9%!!! Wow, I was in shock, I even saved the receipt as a "sales tax souvenir". And I thought Taxachusetts was bad. Anyway, I made my way to a payphone, checked in with mother and got a few details at home straightened out, and then it started drizzling and a dark storm cloud loomed overhead but it turned out to only be a false alarm. So, I started walking back to Uncle Johnny's and realized it was almost 4 miles away. So, for the first time while on the A.T. and for the second time in my life I started to hitch-hike. About 5 or 6 cars passed and I'd walked about a quarter mile when a suped up mustang screeched to a halt. I approached the door expecting a young guy, but instead found a guy in his mid 40's sporting a beer gut and a beard that put mine to shame. I hopped in and he went from 0 - 60 in about 5 seconds. More like a roller coaster than a car ride. Anyway 4 miles of chatting and I found out it was his son's car until his son decided to "outrun the law" at 130 mph. Ahh, small town U.S.A. Gotta love it!!! One thing I do have to say though, my car broke down in Jersey and it took me 45 min. to get someone to offer me a ride, and he was from Georgia, in Small Town U.S.A 5 mins. tops. Sort of a culture difference. People down here have a little more faith in their fellow man I suppose. I thanked the guy for the ride and went into Johnny's and got suckered into buying a pack cover that fits my huge pack and an extra pair of boot laces, as mine are looking a bit mangled. By this point it was after 3 and I decided to head out. I figured with rain in the forecast and the first shelter being 4 miles up and the second 16 miles up that the first shelter was where I was headed. With a full stomach I headed up the Mtn. and in two hours I came upon a Curley Maple gap shelter expecting it to be full and having to tent. To my complete surprise, the shelter was completely empty. And right now it's 8:15 and still no company, save for the two mice that keep running back and forth across the top of the shelter. The mice don't bother me anymore, in fact I find them rather amusing as I sit here alone. Well, it's a good night to be in a shelter because about an hour ago it started pouring. I mean it's coming down in buckets. I'm kind of glad because rain hitting the metal roof drowns out the rest of the eerie forest noises. I just hope it all comes down tonight so that I can stay dry tomorrow. Well, towns sure do hurt my mileage, but they also make for some interesting journal entries. All in all a good day, avoided the rain, avoided getting stuck in Erwin and got some real good grub!

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Wednesday April 10

Days On Trail: 25
Appalachian Trail Miles Hiked: 20.9
Miles from Springer Mountain: 363.8
Stayed at (Tented at Clyde Smith Shelter)

Today I woke at 7 to find that it had stopped raining. Since it poured all night, I assumed that I'd be hiking all day in the rain, but much to my surprise it was a warm sunny day. I'm guessing the thunderstorms frightened the mice because I didn't hear a peep from them all night. I began hiking and the trail was wet and about 10 min into my hike I had my first major wipeout. It all happened so fast, hiking one second and on my side the next. I hit my knee pretty hard and laid there for a few seconds taking inventory on all my body parts. Luckily I escaped this fall with minor scrapes and a very muddy side. I washed off at the next stream x-ing and realized that a simple fall like that could end my journey. I pressed on and ate a late lunch at the next shelter. I planned on going to the next shelter to give me a 20+ day. The last 6 miles today dragged. It was as if I were out of energy. I attribute it to not eating dinner last night because I was so full from lunch. Anyway, it turns out that I passed a whole bunch of people, some that I knew, slackpacking south. By slackpacking I mean that they just had day packs on with food+water. Apparently one ofhte hostels was dropping them off 19 miles from Erwin and they spend a day walking to Erwin. Now, call me a purist, or picky, but I think thats cheating. Not so much the not having a backpack part, although I won't do that, but the fact that they are hiking south, eliminating big climbs and in total 2000ft of vertical climbing. But I shouldn't complain, it's their thru-hike. I suppose if when you get to the end you feel good about yourself, thats all that really matters. When I got to the shelter, there was room for me but I decided to tent instead. It would have been a crowded shelter and I figure I'll sleep better in the tent. Softer ground than the hard wood floors in the shelter and no-body breathing and snoring right beside me. I mad mac+cheese for dinner and went down to the stream to pump water. Now I'm in my tent, it's 9:20 and I'm real tired. Time for bed, looking to do a 20+ day again tomorrow.

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Thursday April 11

Days On Trail: 26
Appalachian Trail Miles Hiked: 12.4
Miles from Springer Mountain: 376.2
Stayed at Overmountain Shelter

Today I got a slow start and by the time I broke down my tent, ate breakfast and hit the trail, it was 8:45. I slept really well in my tent last night, probably because the ground is softer. I spent the morning climbing the 2,500 feet to the top of Roan Mtn. Roan Mtn is the last Mtn to go above 6,000 feet until Mt. Washington in New Hampshire. I reached the top at noon and it was pretty uneventful. No real views to speak of. Overmountain Shelter - Appalachain Trail NCI intended to hike 22 miles to applehouse shelter but it was 4:00 when I reached Overmountain shelter adn thought it best to hold up. Overmountain Shelter is actually an old converted barn on the side of a grassy hill with a killer view. I'd say it sleeps around 60 people. I'm glad I stopped early today because I sure can use the rest, not so much physical as mental from hiking till sundown every day. It's nice to get here and just relax, despite the low mileage. Most people are sleeping in the loft of the barn to avoid the harsh wind. Me and this guy woodman are gunna try and brave it out below. Hopefully it'll pay of with a nice view of a sunrise tomorrow.

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Friday April 12

Days On Trail: 27
Appalachian Trail Miles Hiked: 22.5
Miles from Springer Mountain: 398.7
Stayed at Moreland Gap Shelter

Wow, I just realized, I've been out here 27 days! That's a long time to be hikin around in the woods. Last night was super windy but I managed to stay warm in my bag. Unfortunately it was too foggy to see the sunrise. But Woodman and I woke up early and hit the trail by 7:20. What happened next goes down in the bonehead record book. See, the shelter was 0.3 miles from the A.T. off on a side trail. When Woodman and I started hiking, we accidentally took the wrong side trail and didn't realize it until we were a half mile up the trail. So, we wasted our early start, and lost a good hour. When we finally did get hiking, the trail took us over a few balds in a row. The fog was thick and the wind was blowing real hard, so we flew over the first 5 miles. Up on top of one of the balds visibility was only about 100 yards and all of a sudden I looked up and about 50 feet away was a bull with 3 foot horns grazing on the hillside. Woodman and I were taken aback and it was a scary few moments until we got over the fence. I don't even want to think about what would have happened had that bull charged. Anyway at 9 miles there was a road and Woodman hitched into town and I saw Moses and Skate there hitching into town. That's one town I'm not going into, I said goodbye and headed for the next shelter 14 miles away. I was pretty worn out all afternoon and the hiking was toaling on my body. I didn't get tot he shelter till 8pm just before dark and to my surprise, it is empty. Another night alone in a shelter. I went and got water from the spring, cooked dinner, changed, rolled out my pad and sleeping bag, I'm writing in my journal, and now or the first time today, I'm going to lie down and relax at 10:30.

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Saturday April 13

Days On Trail: 28
Appalachian Trail Miles Hiked: 16.4
Miles from Springer Mountain: 415.1
Stayed at Watauga Lake Shelter

So far, today has been a pretty good day. I woke up at 4AM to hear it was pouring out. I figured I'd be hiking in the rain but i deceided to sleep in, since it's Saturday, and when i got up at 8:00, the rain had stopped. Since my first two days in the Smokies, I've had pretty good luck with rain. (knock on wood, lord knows there is enough of it out here. Since I was feeling like it was a weekend morning I deceided to cook some oatmeal for bfast. Actually I think it was more because I was procrastinating from hiking. Besides I was out of poptarts and kinda hungary. So, with a full stomach I headed on up the trail at about 9:20. I was hiking for 20 min. when i heard something loudly scampering off in the woods off the trail to my right. When I looked over, I could hardly believe my eyes as I saw a BLACK BEAR!!! It was running off into the bushes, but I got a real good look at it for about 5 seconds before it disappeared. That definitely livened up me spirits. My first bear sighting, and I survived! I'm really happy to have seen it because I haven't come across anyone who's seen one. The key to spotting wildlife is getting up early and being the first one down the trail. I hiked 6 miles to Dennis Cove where there is a road with a hotel in either direction. I started walking to the one and a guy in a truck stopped and offered me a ride. I got in and it turns out, this guy owns the other hotel. He offered to take me there and make me lunch so I agreed to go to the Laurel Creek Lodge. When we got there I had a cheeseburger with lettuce, tomato, and onion, some chips, two sodas, and a pint of ice cream. I also filled up my stove gas. All that for just over 10 bucks. Anyway, it sure did put me in a good mood. It was only 1 1/2 hours off the trail too. He gave me a ride back to the trail, I never did catch his name. The next three miles were real pretty. The trail followed a river and there was a real nice waterfall. I cranked out the rest of todays 16+ miles and ended up hiking part way around Watauga Lake up to the shelter. And once again, to my surprise, I'm the only one here tonight. That's 3 out of 5 night alone in a shelter. I deceided to build a fire and built a pretty big one despite the light drizzle. Now the rain has ceased and I'm writing by the fire. I think I'll build more fires from now on. They are definitely fun for me and enliven my spirits. So, all in all a good day. I'm about 40 miles from Damascus so I figure I'm 2 days away.

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Sunday April 14

Days On Trail: 29
Appalachian Trail Miles Hiked: 21.7
Miles from Springer Mountain: 436.8
Stayed at Double Springs Shelter

Today started well, I woke to no rain again. I left the shelter, hiked over the dam, adn then started ascending back up into the mountains. I reached the first shelter by noon and ate lunch. Then I hiked to the next shelter and along the way hiked past about two miles of burned forest, but only on one side of the trail. Apparently, two days prior, the forest service decided to do some spring cleaning and control burned a huge chunk of forest. I got to the next shelter where I met a 38 year old army dude and his girlfriend out for a few days of hiking and apparently tehy brought way too much food because they were practically throwing snacks at me and I was too hungry to say no. I then pushed on the last 8 miles to the shelter I'd be staying at and when I got about a mile away it started pouring. So much for good timing with the rain. I got drenched, but luckily one of the guys built a fire at the shelter and between rains I dried off as best as I could. Oh, and just my luck, the shelter is packed tonight too. Rather than cram into the shelter I'm just going to throw my bag on the picnic table in front and crash there. It's under the roof and at least I'll be able to roll over without hitting anyone. Well, off to bed, it's after 10. Damascus tomorrow!

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Monday April 15

Days On Trail: 30
Appalachian Trail Miles Hiked: 18.3
Miles from Springer Mountain: 455.1
Stayed at The Place, in Damascus

Today had Damascus written all over it. It's amazing how much the thought of hiking into a town can light a fire under your butt. I rolled off the picnic table about 7am and was on the trail hiking by 7:30. My goal was to hike the 18+ miles to Damascus before the post office closed at 5:00. The terrain was smooth and I was moving along pretty quick and I walked into town before 3. The trail goes right down main street. Hiking down the hill into town was a pleasant experience. It's a real pretty small town and it seemed like spring was in full bloom. There was even the sound of a lawnmower off in the distance. Damascus claims to be "the friendliest town on the trail". It seems like thru-hikers are a big part of the economy here. I decided to check out a hostel I heard good things about called "The Place". It turns out that The Place is a really awesome hostel and thats where I'm staying tonight. Basically it's a big house that the church next door runs. Actually, it runs itself. I haven't seen a caretaker, and basically thru-hikers come and go as they please. There are 7 or 8 bedrooms, large in size, that have 3 or 4 bunks, so 6 or 8 beds, each. I'm in a room upstairs by myself. There are about 20 hikers here tonight and a few bikers too. There is a kitchen and 3 bathrooms with a total of 3 showers, all supplied with towels. And its all for a suggested donation of $3.00, which you can slide in a wooden box, it's on the honor system. There is also a library type room with couches and hundreds of books and magazines. I really can't believe this place exists! It's going to make it real hard to leave tomorrow. The first thing I did was hit the post office. I got a huge 22 lb. box of food for my next 8 day supply. It's heavy, but mom did a great job with her first solo food box. Just the fact that it was there on time was good enough for me. I didn't however get any letters this time. Then I claimed a bunk at The Place and took a long overdue shower. Ahhhh, to be clean again! I then bought a quart of chocolate milk at the grocery and chugged it. Then I went to the laundrymat and did laundry for only the 2nd time. While waiting for my laundry to finish I got on the phone and made calls to friends and family. After that I went over to "Dots" with about 10 other thru-hikers. Its a bar/restaurant. I got a cheese and steak sandwich w/fries, but wasn't feeling up for beer with a quart of chocolate milk sittin in my stomach, so I went with root beer. So, there I was surrounded by beer guzzling thru-hikers drinking with my root beer while watching the Mets get killed by the Braves. I only hung around a little while before I decided to walk around town a bit. I found a nice little cybercafe where I can grab breakfast and check my email tomorrow. I've been debating taking a zero day tomorrow to enjoy the town some more, and heck, "The Place" is practically free. We'll see. Now, off to make some more cuts to my gear to try and lighten the load a bit. Great day!

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Tuesday April 16

Days On Trail: 31
Appalachian Trail Miles Hiked: 16.8
Miles from Springer Mountain: 471.9
Stayed at (Tented at US58 Summit)

Sleeping in a house last night was strange. Every time I woke up, I thought I was in the woods somewhere. I woke up at 8:00 am, took a hot shower. It felt great to take a shower. This morning, started the day off right. Then I went over to the cybercafe and ordered breakfast. Eggs, bacon, toast and coffee. Before and after I ate I was able to check email and browse the net. I received so many great emails from friends and family and I thank all of you. I then went back to "The Place" and started making the second cut on my gear in an attempt to lighten the load. Here are some things that went: Ski Coat - Barely used it and it's getting warm Cotton sweat pants - I used them to sleep in but again, it's getting warm ZipUp fleece - Slept in it, getting too warm Long wool socks - Slept in them, too warm Plastic ground cloth - too bulky, using space blanket instead Rain pants - I wore these twice, both times while doing laundry. I kept the rain coat for cold weather. Vanity clace - using zip-lock instead 50 ft. rope - The 35 foot rope is good enough. Never used. Alarm clock - Never used, sun up = me up Xtra roll of film Fork - Spoon works for everything Cup - barely used First aid kit - Sorry Dana, band-aids and moleskin just don't stick on a sweaty body. I'll use ductape. There was other stuff, but that was the bulk of it. I then mailed the package home which cost me 10 bucks. I then went back to the cybercafe for lunch and another quick email check. Then I had to get on the phone for a while and straighten out some stuff at home. I got back and packed up and the scale said my pack weighed 55 lbs. UGHH! Too much food! Anyway, I bought a 335 million dollar powerball ticket and was back on the trail at 2:30. I thought about taking a zero day and just chilling in Damascus, but I figured it'd be best to get hiking again. Before I get into the hiking part of my day, just a few observations upon hanging out in Damascus, small town south. 1. I really have to hurry up north because I say "yall" and "howdie" way too much now, and even with a drawl sometimes. 2. Nascar is HUGE down here. Up north we have baseball and football schedules in bars and stores. Down here, Nascar. 3. everyone is still mourning the death of Dale Earnhardt. 4. Damascas is actually a bigger biking town than a trail town. They have the Virginia creeper trail that is miles of old railroad track ripped up and made into a bike trail. 5. Never drink a half gallon of chocolate milk and expect to be able to eat much else without including stomach pain. OK, I'm done now. Back to the hiking. I pounded two 50? cans of Nestea on my way out of town and hit the first shelter 10 miles out of town by 6:00. The next shelter is 6 miles further and for some reason I decided to press on. Well it got dark around 8:00 and I was still a good 2 miles away. So I began night hiking, not my favorite thing to do. What happens? I somehow waked right past the shelter and ended up a mile past. Realizing I had just screwed myself, I found the first flat area and pitched my tent. I then cracked open the 1 lb. 8 oz. can of dinty moore that mom was good enough to send me. I refuse to carry that can another step! Now here I am at 11:15 pm lying in my tent exhausted and ready for sleep. Glad my zero day turned into almost 17 miles, but I'm pooped!

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Wednesday April 17

Days On Trail: 32
Appalachian Trail Miles Hiked: 18.1
Miles from Springer Mountain: 490
Stayed at (Tented on Stone Mtn.)

Today goes down as my most interesting day so far, and it ain't over yet! As I write this I'm half scared for my life. But I'll get to that, First let me start at the beginning. I woke up early at about 7:00. I think the fact that I was tenting so close to a road made me worry that I shouldn't sleep late. I had three cereal bars for breakfast and they were great. They're the kind with the milk in the middle. Mom found them and sent them figuring they'd be a good idea, and kudos to Mom cause they are good. Most of the morning was spent climbing up the trail to Mt. Rogers. Mt. Rogers is the higest point in Virgiia. After reaching the top around noon, I took a break at theh shelter at the top. The day was beautiful, it was about 80 degrees and sunny. I managed to get sunburn on my arms. Just after Mt. Rogers the trail got real pretty, following a ridgeline with excellent views, then all of a sudden to my surprise, there were wild ponies grazing on the mtn. top. It was really cool. I saw about 30 total and at one point there were 4 or 5 right on the trail and I had to walk around. I saw alot of wildlife today. 3 or 4 snails, about 10 white tail deer, tons of birds, hawks and lots of cool butterflies. As I got to the next shelter, i twas only 4:30 and the next shelter was 5 1/2 miles away. I eard thunderstorms on the horizon but didn't mind getting wet, so I pressed on. About 2 miles further I reached a dillema. The trail broke out of the trees and began skirting over some bald mtns. I could see and hear the thunderstorms rolling in and didn't feel safe. After pausing a moment, I figured they were far enough away to change heading up onto the treeless mountain. I didn't even walk 100 yards when directly in front of me and not very far off, maybe a few hundred yards, a streak of lightning hurled out of the sky and hit the ground. The crash was deafening. I didn't crap my pants but later wondered why I didn't. I've never been so scared in my life. I turned around and ran like a scared little school girl back down to the cover of some trees. I kid you not, I lied down on the ground as lightening crashed everywhere. I sat there for about an hour until it seemed as if the storm had passed. I then decided to make a push for the shelter before dark. Well the trail headed over the bald and just kept going up as far as the eye could see. After 15 minutes of waking, I could see and hear the next thunderstorm rolling in and the thought of going even higher up on a bald mtn. didn't appeal to me. I wasn't going to mess with lightning again. My options were few. Off to my right down are the path of least resistance to the ground. My dinner was snacks since I can't cook up here. And to add to my worries, I crossed a livestock fense and by the hoofprints and animal wastte lying around there is definetly someting grazing up here. I just hope it's not long houn steer and whatever it is, dosen't walk through my tent or eat my food bag. Well, an interesting day to say the least! I hope I survive to see the morning. Mother nature sure is going to test out my tent tonight.

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Thursday April 18

Days On Trail: 33
Appalachian Trail Miles Hiked: 18.3
Miles from Springer Mountain: 508.3
Stayed at Trimpi Shelter

Well, I woke up today, alive and dry, with the sun shining in on my tent. I packed up slowly and ate my poptart breakfast. Hiking today I saw a few more deer, some more ponies, and a real big snake. He was sitting in the middle of the trail and I threw a stick at it and he didn't even budge. I wasn't sure if it was a copperhead (poisonous) so I wasn't going to touch it. I got a long stick and picked it up and it slithered off under a log. Most of the rest of the day was uneventful. It was a real nice day though, probably around 80? and sunny. It seems the bugs are out in full force too now. But I'll take bugs and heat over cold. There is a difference when hiking in heat. Before I used to sweat only when going up hills. Now I sweat even when i'm taking breaks. That just means drinking a lot more water. Every time I hit a water source I chug a quart and fill up. I keep thinking of a phrase Dana's dad used to say "Force Fluids!" Anyway, I got to the shelter at about 5:30 and since my luck hasn't been so great the past few nights, I decided to stay. I cooked a big dinner of Lipton Noodles and Sauce, and now I'm sitting at the picnic table outside the shelter writing and watching 4 or 5 bunny rabbits race around the shelter. There is one other guy at the shelter tonight named Mainframe. He's another fella that used to work in computers. It was nice having someone to converse with after a solo day on the trail. It's 7:55, gettin dark, time for bed!

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Friday April 19

Days On Trail: 34
Appalachian Trail Miles Hiked: 24.8
Miles from Springer Mountain: 533.1
Stayed at Davis Path Shelter

Today was a long day. I woke up at 6:15 and Mainframe was up and eating breakfast. Boy do those older fellas wake up early. I just laid there until it got light out and slowly woke and ate bfast. I was on the trail by 8 and was very happy that Mainframe left before me becasue he cleared most of the spider webs off the trail ahead of me. They can be real annoying in wet areas. I hiked at a good pase most of the morning and it was real hot out again today. I got to the partnership shelter at noon which is located right next to the Mt. Rogers park headquarters which had real bathrooms and a soda machine. A nice treat. I ate lunch there as a thunderstorm rolled in. As soon as it began pouring I started hiking again. You know it's hot out when you wait for it to start raining to start hiking. The rain blew over quick and cooled me down a bit. Shortly after I caught up to Mainframe and he told me he was staying at a hotel on US-I81. Also, I could get food there because the trail passes tight through a truckstop. That lit a fire under my butt and got me moving. We hit the interstate at 5:30 and I went into the truckstop and gorged myself. 2 Chillidogs, 1 cheeseburger, 1 turkey & cheese sandwich, 1 ice cream, 2 strawberry milks, 1 orange juice, and a package of hershies chocolate almond bites. All for under $10.00! The sad part is I could have eaten more. What a pleasant surprise that stop was. I then threw on my pack and waddled up the trail 3 miles to the next shelter. I did get a chance to call home too, make sure all was well and let everyone know I'm still alive. At the shelter there were a bunch of people whw were excited to hear I was moving fast and wanted updates on all the people behind them. They seemed excited to hear news from the people I'd passed. They made room in the shelter for my late arriving butt. The last 3 days have been super nice and I've got sunburn on my ears and neck, OUCH! I'm sporting a great farmer's tan too, oh well. 24.8 miles went pretty easily today, and having food at the end was a nice bonus.

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Saturday April 20

Days On Trail: 35
Appalachian Trail Miles Hiked: 20.6
Miles from Springer Mountain: 553.7
Stayed at Chestnut Knob

This morning at 6:00 a really loud bird sat right outside the shelter and started chirping real loud. It woke the entire shelter up and everyone was cursing that poor bird. I got up, packed up, watched the sunrise, then hit the trail. There was no water source at the shelter so I decided to hike 3 1/2 miles to the next river and get water, then have breakfast. It rained for about 1/2 hour this morning, just enough to cool me down a bit. I hit the first shelter at noon and ate lunch and chatted with Weathercarrot for about an hour. Leaving the shelter I ran into 3 guys that were doing trail maintenence. They spottted a 3 foot rattlesnake that was really bright in color. They poked at it and its rattle went off. That is my first rattlesnake sighting outside a zoo, ever! That'll make me think twice before I sit on a log for a rest. I then hiked the 9 miles to this shelter. The last 4 miles were straight up and wore me out, especially since I had to tote a gallon of water the last 2 miles because there is no water at the thelter. This shelter is on top of a grassy mountain and sits at 4400 feet. It has excellent views in all directions. Luckily this shelter has 4 walls and a door becasue it's super windy and cold outside. There is a young couple and an older guy named E-Z-hiker (from Jersey) here besides me. Several milestones to note: 1. First time I've posted consecutive 20+ mile days. 2. I'm a little past 1/4 of the way there. 3. I'm in my 4th state, Georgia, N.C., Tenn. down already. 4. 3 days ago I was on the trail one month. 5. I'm over 500 miles.

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Sunday April 21

Days On Trail: 36
Appalachian Trail Miles Hiked: 14.9
Miles from Springer Mountain: 568.6
Stayed at (Tented at V.A. 615)

Today I decided to hike along with Cupid, arrow, and E-Z-Hiker. Although their pace was slower than I was used to and they took long breaks, it was nice having people to hike with. It wound up being a pretty relaxing day and I only hiked 14.9 miles. The morning hiking followed a high rocky ridgeline. It threatened rain all morning but never really rained. I ran into Weather Carrot, a guy who has thru-hiked before and has done trailwork all up and down the trail. He gave me some helpfull adviceon different things like places to stay and ways to improve my mail drops. My intention was to hike with those guys in the morning and then have a long afternoon sprinting to the next shelter goving me a 24 mile day. I'm not sure why but instead I wound up sticking with the three of them and camping at a road x-ing with them. It made for a more pleasent afternoon anyway. Now I'm lying here in my tent looking at my maps debating how far to go tomorrow. 33 miles is a possibility but 20 is a more realistic goal. Well see how the day goes tomorrow.

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Monday April 22

Days On Trail: 37
Appalachian Trail Miles Hiked: 32.6
Miles from Springer Mountain: 601.2
Stayed at Wapiti Shelter

Too tired to write. But I did it! OK, it's the next day now. I couldn't write last night becasue it was too late, dark, and cold. The day started off slowly. I woke up at 6:30 to the sound of rain hitting my tent. There is something cool about lying in a tent all warm and dry while rain pours down all around you. I briefly thought about my 33 mile idea and quickly decided to remain warm and dry for a little while longer. So, I pressed my internal snooze alarm and rolled over and fell back asleep. I woke again at 7:30 and to my good luck, the rain slowly tapered off. I got out of my tent and the other three were already leaving. I packed up and hit the trail at 8:15, which turned out to be real late for the kind of day I was about to have. By the way, there is nothing fun about packing up a wet tent. As I began hiking the clouds cleared and it got much cooler and windier out. Apparently the cold front push through. It was kind of nice hiking in cool weather again. The terrain was real easy and I wound up hiking 9 miles to the first shelter by noon. Now I started to think that the 33 mile might be possible. The rest of the day was dedicated to getting to Wapiti shelter. I was averaging 3 miles an hour all day and taking very few breaks. It was 7:00 pm and I still had 6 1/2 miles to hike so I started looking for a campsite before it got dark at 8:15ish. I didn't find a real good campsite so I kept on hiking and finally hit a point where I just decided to night hike and make it to the shelter. I finally wound up getting to the shelter at 9:30 and was happy to see that 2 of the three people there were still awake and there was room for me in the shelter. I made dinner cause I was starving and went to bed despite aching feet and some dude snoring in my ear. The last hour of night niking sucked and I really don't want to do anymore night hiking. Nothing worse than not seeing the rock you're going to trip over or the stream you're going to fall in or the shelter you're passing. But I reached another goal. I came out here wanting to do a marathon day and 30 mile day and now I've done both. It feels great to have 32+ miles. I'm not sure if I have many more of them in me but I'm happy to get my first.

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Tuesday April 23

Days On Trail: 38
Appalachian Trail Miles Hiked: 16.7
Miles from Springer Mountain: 617.9
Stayed at Holy Family Church Hostel

Today I struggled out of my sleeping bag because the terperatures were in the 30's. It was cold last night and I was happy I didn't send home my warm sleeping bag yet. I packed up and immediately started hiking to warm up. Luckily the day started out with a climb up a mtn. Most of today's hiking was fairly easy and I wound up hiking most of the day with a retired truck driver called Million Miler. He calls himself that because he got an award for driving a million miles without an accident. He lives in Hilton Head now which I found interesting. I got to the top of the Mtn. overlooking Pearisburg and low and behold there was a wild goat standing on the trail in front of me. Now I think I've seen it all. Funny part was trying to get past him. He looked harmless enough but I wasn't taking any chances with those horns. We played chicken for a while but I did manage to get around him. I dropped down into Pearisburg and when I hit the road I stuck my thumb out at the first van I saw and it pulled over. The nicest guy picked me up and drove me first 1 mile to the post office and then waited for me and took me the 2 miles to the church hostel. I offered him money but he refused. I did wind up getting to the post office at 4:25, 5 minutes before close, whew! I got my food drop along with several surprises. I got a package from Reina, Sev, and Madeline with some tasty treats, a letter from Dana, a letter from her aunt, and a postcard from my friend Melissa in Boston. it was great to get so much surprise mail. Really boosts my spirits! Thank you, all of you!! I went to dinner at an all you can eat chinese buffet and filled up 5 plates. I had trouble walking back to the hostel. The hostel is a nice place. There are about 10 of us here. It's warm in here and I got a hot shower so I'm happy. I even did some laundry in teh sink. Well, I have so much more to write but it's 12:30 and I need some rest. I guess the rest will have to wait for some story telling when I get back.

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Wednesday April 24

Days On Trail: 39
Appalachian Trail Miles Hiked: 19.1
Miles from Springer Mountain: 637
Stayed at Pine Swamp Branch Shelter

Today I was up at around 7 at the hostel. It was very tempting to take a zero day there because it's free and comfortable. I packed up and left around 9:00. I found out that the library was close by, so I went over there to check my email and check the weather forecast. I then started the 2 mile walk to the post office and within 5 min. I was offered a ride. A real nice guy named Mullie, who was a retired H.S. football coach, drove me first to the post office and then to the trail. I just can't get over how nice everyone is down here. I originally planned to grab breakfast and call home before hitting the trail but I couldn't pass up a ride to the trail whick was 3 miles away. I left a $5 donation at the hostel. I'm not sure what you're supposed to leave but that seemed good to me. I also weighed my pack there and this time it was 50lbs. Hiking out of towns is always hard. First of all, usually when you leave town there is a mountain to climb. Also I resupply in towns so I leaved with a full food bag + full fuel, which makes my pack heavy. Another thing is the fact that usually I leave town with a full belly which makes it harder to hike. I finally got on the trail at 11:30 and the trail leaving town went straight up a mountain. I got to the first shelter at 3:30 and debated staying but figured a 7 mile day was pretty weak. So I pressed on the 12.6 miles to this shelter. I had to hike quickly to get here before nightfall and also to beat the thunderstorms. I got here just before dark and barely got drizzled on. There are only 3 other people in the shelter too, which is nice. So, I got a 19 mile day coming out of a town, not a bad days work!

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Thursday April 25

Days On Trail: 40
Appalachian Trail Miles Hiked: 18.5
Miles from Springer Mountain: 655.5
Stayed at Laurel Creek Shelter

Last night it rained all night and I woke to more rain this morning. I took my time packing up and eating breakfast because I was in no hurry to get out into the rain. I wound up leaving at 9:00 and hiked for about an hour in the rain before it cleared up. Then it got nice and windy and cold. I was pretty cold but just hiked faster to warm up. I hiked 18.5 miles today and got to the shelter at 6. It was nice to take my time getting water, cooking dinner and getting everything squared away. The next shelter is 12.4 miles away so that's out of the question. I just realized that I'm going to run into my first post office problem when I head into Troutville. I planned to get there on Sat. but I'd never get there by noon. Waiting until Monday will throw me off two days, but it seems I have no other choice. Its getting chilly out now and should drop down into the 30's tonight. Perfect for sleeping in a 20 degree bag, but a pain to wake up to.

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Friday April 26

Days On Trail: 41
Appalachian Trail Miles Hiked: 22.3
Miles from Springer Mountain: 677.8
Stayed at Pickle Branch Shelter

It was a cold morning but it slowly warmed up. While hiking this morning I had a crazy notion to hike straight through the night and finish the 55 miles to Troutville just in time before the post office closed. But then I remembered how much I detest night hiking and figured getting there Monday morning would do just fine. It will but me behind my schedule by one more day but oh well. That is an arbitrary schedule that I'm racing against anyway. The hiking today was nice, it seems like spring is really here. All the trees are sprouting leaves and there are wild flowers everywhere. I also got within 5 feet of a deer today too. I walked up on him and he didn't see me so I froze and he just wandered over to me and was only 5 feet away when he realized I wasn't a tree and he bolted down the hill. The shelter I'm staying in is half a mile of the A.T. It seems a shame to hike a whole mile and not get any closer to Maine. Speaking of miles, its strange that I hiked 22 miles today and I still feed like I'm going too slow because I'm losing a day. Its that arbitrary schedule thing again. Its a full shelter tonight with 6 of us here. An older retired couple and 3 younger thru-hikers I met and stayed with last night. The good part about not picking up my food until Monday is that I'll have an easy 2 days of hiking to cover the 33 miles. On one of the mountains I climbed today there was a monument for Audie Murphy, the most decorated soldier in World War II. Apparently he crashed his plane into a mountain around here. He was also an actor. I guess I'm getting a little history lesson while I'm out here.

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Saturday April 27

Days On Trail: 42
Appalachian Trail Miles Hiked: 16.1
Miles from Springer Mountain: 693.9
Stayed at Campbell Shelter

I woke up late today and didn't get on the trail until after 9. I figured that I didn't need to do big mileage because of the post office problem so no big deal. Someone told me it was supposed to rain today and boy were they wrong. It was a gorgeous sunny day. Most of my hike was up on a ridgeline today and I went over "Dragon's Tooth" and "MacAfee's Knob". Both had spectacular views. As the afternoon drew on, it became more and more cloudy. Then about 10 min. before I go to this shelter it began to drizzle and has been ever since. It's nice to be in a shelter when it rains. It looks like I'm in the shelter alone tonight. My stuff is spread out all over. It's real quiet here, except for the rain hitting the roof. Very peaceful. Oh, I almost forgot, as I was approaching the last road today I came upon 3 coolers filled with soda and goodies compliments of "Grizzly", a 2001 thru-hiker that decided to be a trail angel this year. Real nice of him! Well it's rainy and cold out and I'm happy to be warm and dry in my sleeping bag. Trying to figure out my next two days with that darned food drop.

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Sunday April 28

Days On Trail: 43
Appalachian Trail Miles Hiked: 15.1
Miles from Springer Mountain: 709
Stayed at Econo-Lodge outside Troutville

Today was a strange day. I woke alone at the shelter, ate breakfast and began hiking at 8. I knew Troutville was 16 miles away so I pretty much took my time hiking all day. Several thunderstorms rolled through today making todays hike a very wet one. The afternoon storms were pretty rough and apparently some tornados touched down in the area, but I managed to avoid those. It's kind of funny how lightening has become my nemisis on this trip. Today i found myself running across fields on a couple occasions to avoid becoming human charcoal. My dilemma today was where to end my day. There was nowhere to camp near the interstate where I need to go into Troutville for my package tomorrow. So, being that I was soaking wet I decided to treat myself to a night in a hotel. So here I am in an Econo Lodge on the side of the highway a couple miles out of Troutville. I got out of my wet clothes, called home and some friends and watched some TV for the first time. I also went over to the all you can eat chinese buffet next door. MORE chinese food! I did go over to Pizza Hut first but they didn't have an AYCE so I passed. Something about AYCE places that are like magnets for thru-hikers. It almost feels like I'm cheating staying here but I figure once in a while a shower and a bed is alright. Of course right now it's 1:30 and I'm still awake, so I'm not sure having lights + a TV is such a good thing. Ironically I'm watching a special on grizzly bears on animal planet. I hope to get an early start tomorrow into town and at least get double digits in mileage out of town.

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Monday April 29

Days On Trail: 44
Appalachian Trail Miles Hiked: 18.8
Miles from Springer Mountain: 727.8
Stayed at Bobblets Gap Shelter

Today I woke at 7:00 and was happy to be in a hotel room where I could use a real toilet and take a real shower. I packed up, watched the weather report and went down to check out. I was disappointed to find that the hotels breakfast was only coffee and Krispy Creme donuts. I wound up eating 8 donuts but would have preferred cereal and juice. I hit the trail and hiked the 2 miles to route 11 where the Troutville P.O. was 0.8 miles away. I hitchhiked the whole way there but found no takers. I didn't get a ride back either that's 1.6 miles hiked that don't count. Mom did a much better job of keeping the weight down on this package. I planned 7 days to get to Waynesboro which will once again put me in town on the weekend when the P.O. is closed. I may crank up the mileage to get there Sat. morning. We'll see. The trail closely follows the Blue Ridge Parkway and even crossed it a couple times. Right now I'm at Bobblets Gap Shelter with Ice Man, PNut, and a southbound couple. Ice Man was telling stories about growing up poor in Maine, one of 8 children. Funny stuff that I could sort of relate to growing up 1 of 7. It's nice getting in the shelter around 6:00. Plenty of daylight to set up, make dinner and now I'm even writing in daylight. It's real windy and quite cold right now. I'm already tucked into my sleeping bag.

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Tuesday April 30

Days On Trail: 45
Appalachian Trail Miles Hiked: 18.3
Miles from Springer Mountain: 746.1
Stayed at (Tented at Cornelius Creek Shelter)

I'm not sure why but yesterday afternoon I was feeling groggy like I had no energy and it carried over into the morning. I crashed early last night and just couldn't get out of bed this morning. I think it may have something to do with me staying up late the night before and also may be the result of crashing from my breakfast sugar high of 8 donuts and 4 cups of sugar coffee. Whatever the reason I was a slow hiker most of today. I did finally start feeling more lively in the late afternoon but too late to get my mileage up for the day. It was a perfect day today, sunny, a light breeze, and warm. A pleasant shift from the windy freezing weather last night. I reached this shelter to find 6 older gentlemen singing a prayer around dinner at the picnic table. Turns out they're Lutheran ministers out for the week. With the full shelter and 2.5 hours of daylight left I considered hiking on to the next shelter but in the end wound up pitching my tent and staying. The next 5 miles keep going up hill and the terrain didn't look easy. I'm not doing quite the mileage I intended in this section but the tradeoff is a much more relaxing camp experience. I took my time cooking, getting water, enjoyed chatting with the old dudes, and sitting by the warm fire. Sounds like a good night to me! Now if the forecasted rain will just hokd up through the night.

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Wednesday May 1

Days On Trail: 46
Appalachian Trail Miles Hiked: 21.5
Miles from Springer Mountain: 767.6
Stayed at Johns Hollow Shelter

Today I woke up early and was on the trail by 7:30. Thankfully it didn't rain last night and I had a dry tent to put away. There was some rough uphills in the morning but I was feeling good and making good time. It was a warm day and I don't have a teeshirt anymore so I sweat my butt off in my fleece. There were tons of wildflowers all around the trail and they were really pretty. I crossed over the James river this afternoon. It was by far the largest river I've crossed so far. There is a brand new footbridge over it that apparently cost over a million bucks. I got to this shelter at 5:30 and definitely could have gone on but the next shelter is 9 miles farther and the weather forecast calls for mucho rain tonight so I decided to stay put. Besides I doubt I'll make my next mail drop by Sat. morning so it looks like I won't need to rush too much. I'm here at the shelter with Ice Man and PNut again (from 2 nights ago) and another older fella. Gunna be a warm night tomorrow. I'm kinda hoping for rain.

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Thursday May 2

Days On Trail: 47
Appalachian Trail Miles Hiked: 17.6
Miles from Springer Mountain: 785.2
Stayed at Brown Mountaion Creek Shelter

Last night the entire shelter was suddenly woken by an incredibly loud crash of thunder that sounded like it was actually in the shelter. It wound up raining most of the night but stopped by morning. I hiked most of the day with Ice Man and PNut at their blistering fast pace. It began raining, of course complete with lots of thunder + lightening, around noon and continues even now at 8:30. That made for a wet afternoon which was fine because I was sweating buckets anyway. There are 4 of us in the shelter tonight, us three and a section hiker. I sure don't miss the rain though. It's always a little harder out here when everything is soaking wet. At lunchtime the three of us were at the shelter before this. There was a pond right next to us and we put our camp shoes on and stripped down intending to take a swim in the pond but when we walked to the water the first thing we saw was a big snake gliding across the water. We then saw another snake right in front of us so we cancelled our swim.

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Friday May 3

Days On Trail: 48
Appalachian Trail Miles Hiked: 22.7
Miles from Springer Mountain: 807.9
Stayed at The Priest Shelter

Today's hiking began with a huge climb of almost 3,000 feet over the first 5 miles. The weather was much cooler today with a nice breeze so I didn't sweat to death today. Pnut and Iceman took off quickly so I hiked the whole day alone. I rolled into Priest Shelter about 6:30 after hiking nearly 23 miles. I'm in the shelter tonight with Iceman and Pnut again along with this guy by the mane of Behemiem. We sat around all night joking around and watching 4 deer and a rabbit hang out around the shelter. Another 100 miles down as I went over 800 today. I'm starting to see 20 mile days come easier and easier. Sunday I plan on getting into Waynesbore and then I enter Shanendoah National Park.

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Saturday May 4

Days On Trail: 49
Appalachian Trail Miles Hiked: 29.7
Miles from Springer Mountain: 837.6
Stayed at Paul C. Wolfe Shelter

Today began cold and ended even colder. When I woke, Iceman's thermometer said 35 degrees. I ate breakfast in my sleeping bag and then reluctantly got up and packed up. I hiked most of the day with Iceman. We first descended 5 miles off Priest Mtn. down to the Tye River. Then we ascended "The Three Peaks" which are 3 peaks each 100 feet higher. For those of you counting at home thats 3000 feet up. That probably doesn't mean much to people that don't hike a lot but it's a good 3 hours of strait up. We then got to the next shelter where we met Pnut and Bohemiem who blue blazed the 3 peaks. It was 1:45 at this point and the next shelter was 16 1/2 miles away. Town was an additional 5 miles. The original plan was to camp between shelters but the rainclouds were gathering so we made up a collective decision to hike on to the next shelter. We booked the next 16 miles and I pulled in to the shelter just before dark around 8. The hiking this afternoon was miserable. It poured all afternoon and in the 40's. Thats a recipe for cold, shivering, and near hypothermia. Hiking fast was all I could do to stay warm. And to top it all off I was moving quickly down a mountain and took a dive head-first down the hill. Luckily it was real muddy and I wound up sliding about 5 feet. My third fall of the trip left me nice and muddy. When I finally did get to the shelter, it was packed. There were two boy scout troops and many weekenders both filling the shelter and tenting around it. Not a great site for my cold weary wet eyes. Luckily this was one of the bigger shelters and it had a porch area that me and the other three guys wound up sleeping on. Not ideal but we had a dry spot to lay. It was a long, wet day and I'm happy to have a dry bag tonight. But a great mileage day at JUST under 30.

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Sunday May 5

Days On Trail: 50
Appalachian Trail Miles Hiked: 5
Miles from Springer Mountain: 842.6
Stayed at Waynesboro in Hotel

Today I woke real early to a dog jumping on me followed by loud annoying little scouts fight over poptarts. Camping on weekends is always an adventure with all the weekend campers. I was on the trail at 7:15 chugging along. It was only a 5 mile hike into town so I was happy about that and so were my feet. Only 5 miles because I have to wait until tomorrow morning to pick up my mail drop. A bad thing for mileage but a good thing for just chilling out and enjoying town. The four of us hiked down to the road and scored a ride from a nice lady who was actually dropping hikers off at the trail. We decided that the first place we needed our smelly butts taken is the laundry mat. We spent a good 1.5 hours there cleaning our clothes. Then our options for a place to stay were tenting in the yard at the YMCA or getting a room at the Comfort Inn. Because of the looming clouds we each chipped in 15 bucks and split a room. What a much-needed shower. I'm not sure what was browner, my shower water or my laundry water. We went to lunch at Papa Johns pizza and then hitched to the outfitter where I bought a quick dry tee-shirt. Then we hitched back and I cleaned up my equipment. The consensus decided that we would do the Chinese buffet even though I wasn't really feeling up for it. But, I followed the crowd and ate way too much. We got back to the room and there were about 10 of us hanging out. At about 11:30 the four of us decided to walk the half-mile to the supermarket to get a pint of Ben+Jerry's each. It's amazing how big those cravings are. I just watched some comedy central and its 2:00am now and I'm ready for some sleep after a long day of playing in town. Not a zero day, but close enough!

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Monday May 6

Days On Trail: 51
Appalachian Trail Miles Hiked: 7
Miles from Springer Mountain: 849.6
Stayed at Calf Mountain Shelter

Today I woke at 8am in my hotel room and went to the complimentary breakfast with Iceman and had 4 bowls of cereal, several cups of OJ, coffee, and an apple. I then took a shower and picked up my mail drop. It's 8 days worth of food and quite heavy but Mom did a good job of packing the food again this time. I bought batteries at the store and then headed over to the library to check my email. Iceman & Bohemian were there also and we all got a ride back to the trail-head from there. I hadn't eaten lunch and luckily there was a restaurant right where we got dropped off so Bohemian and I went and got some lunch. We then entered the Shenandoah National Park (SNP) and hiked the seven miles to the first shelter where Iceman & Pnut were already. It's a very low mileage day again but that's the price paid for going into town. The shelters in the "SNP" are spaced out quite a bit so mileage will either be very low or very high most days. The weather calls for rain most days this week but warmer out at least. The optimistic plan is to reach Harpers Ferry Sunday night, but that's with a bunch of high 20 mile days. At the shelter I cooked up a Lipton Noodle dinner, more because I was trying to cut pack weight then because I was hungry. The gnats were swarming so I built a nice fire. The shelter filled up with a few late arrivals (Trailblaze, Diesel, and two other guys). It's drizzling out tonight but not very cold. It really hasn't hit me yet because I haven't given myself much time to think about it or dwell on it but today I called home and got the unfortunate terrible news that one of our closest family friends, Mrs. Barber died last night. It's that phone call that everyone dreads where you find out that a loved one has passed away. It sort of put a real sour feeling on the day and makes my hike seem somehow very unimportant. I feel bad that I didn't get to see her before she passed away and also feel bad because I won't be able to pay my respects. She wasn't related to me but she was definitely family. She always has been for as long as I can remember. She never missed a birthday or Christmas or a graduation. She was the only non-related person that I kissed when I saw her. I'll miss her very much and I will dedicate the rest of my hike to her memory. Every time I summit a mountain or see a sunrise, I'll know she is somewhere up there looking down on me.

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Tuesday May 7

Days On Trail: 52
Appalachian Trail Miles Hiked: 26.2
Miles from Springer Mountain: 875.8
Stayed at Pingfield Hut

Today started early, up before 7, on the trail by 7:30. I was hiking no more than an hour when the rain came pouring down. It rained the entire day until I got to the shelter this evening, then it stopped…go figure. The 26+ miles went quite smoothly today despite the rain. Unlike a few days ago, it wasn't real cold out. In fact it was kind of muggy so the rain wasn't awful. The trail was quite easy to hike because the terrain was quite smooth. There are 95 miles of it in Shenandoah and it crosses Skyline Drive 28 times. Today we crossed 8 times. Also, the shelters are called huts here. I saw a bunch of bunnies today and tons of deer. The deer here are all small and scraggly looking. They aren't afraid of humans either. When I walk by, they just kind of stand there like cattle. It's a full house here in the shelter tonight, 9 of us total. It's kind of nice lying here listening to the rain hit the metal roof.

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Wednesday May 8

Days On Trail: 53
Appalachian Trail Miles Hiked: 19.7
Miles from Springer Mountain: 895.5
Stayed at A Cabin in Lewis Mtn. Campground

Today turned out to be quite a strange day. I woke up at 7:30 to find that the forecasted rain was nowhere to be found and the sun was shining. It was a warm morning which made getting out of the ole sleeping bag nice and easy. The plan for the day was to hit the shelter 20 miles away but there was a lot of talk about the campground 19 miles away. I hit the trail and sweat my butt off all morning laboring up hills in the heat. Again I saw tons of docile deer. I ate lunch at a rocky overlook and then just past noon it began to pour. So, I hiked most of the afternoon in the rain, but at least it was a bit cooler out. At the entrance to the campground I told Pnut & Iceman to leave 2 rocks on top of the sign if they were going in, and when I got there, 2 rocks were on the sign. The 4 of us were going to split a cabin but as it turns out there were already several thruhikers in a cabin so we just latched on with them. I went to the camp store and bought some snacks and we all sat around and hung out for the rest of the evening. When all was said & done there were 11 of us sharing a small 2 room cabin. Every inch of floor space is taken up right now. I was able to take a shower which was nice. Right now I'm pretty tired and my feet are sore. It's amazing how much more of a pounding the ole' feet take when you hike all day in wet boots and socks. The forecast calls for more rain tomorrow and I have my doubts about a 27 mile day. We'll see.

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Thursday May 9

Days On Trail: 54
Appalachian Trail Miles Hiked: 19.1
Miles from Springer Mountain: 914.6
Stayed at A Cabin in Skyland Campground

Today I woke to a full cabin and some really cloudy weather. With so many people it's hard to sleep once someone wakes up. So, I was on the trail by 8:15 with full intentions of going 27 miles to the shelter, but some days have a funny way of working out. We said goodbye to Pnut because he was doing a low mileage day and will be slowed down because his father is going to hike with him. So me and Iceman hiked all morning together and got to the next campground 5 min. after they stopped serving breakfast. We were disappointed but found out that Skyland Campground which was 9 miles further only served lunch until 2:30. So, Iceman, Chaser and I hauled butt and did 9 miles in 2 ? hours. We really moved and got to lunch a good ? hour before it ended. I ate a burger, fries, and had a brownie sundae with blackberry ice cream. MMMM, GODO! We all heard about these campgrounds and all the food we could eat through the Shenandoah's and now we were happy that the rumors were true. After lunch the three of us sat outside and debated what to do next. It was only 4:00 and the next shelter was 10 miles further. There was however a real severe thunderstorm that was forced to roll through the area that night. Also a guy we knew, Stonewall, had a cabin for the night at the campground that we were welcome to crash in. The thunderstorms didn't appear immediately so we made the decision to go on to the next shelter. About 2 miles into our hike we were out on an exposed ridge and the storm coming in was looking pretty violent. The three of us made a quick decision to cut over to Skyline Drive and hitch back to the campground. I was being stubborn at first and wanted to push on thinking that being out in a storm wasn't so bad but my ole nemesis lightning crashed overhead and changed my mind quickly. Iceman and I got an older English couple to give us a ride pretty quickly. We then went back to the lodge safe and sound and a ferocious storm swept through the area. We ate a wonderful turkey dinner at the lodge and 7 of us crashed in Stonewall's 2 person cabin. Ahhh, what a day.

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Friday May 10

Days On Trail: 55
Appalachian Trail Miles Hiked: 21.7
Miles from Springer Mountain: 936.3
Stayed at Gravel Springs Hut

Today we all woke at 7:30 and grabbed breakfast at the lodge. That's 3 meals in 2 days for me, not too shabby. We then hit the trail and got a ride to exactly where we got off yesterday and I wound up hiking with Iceman all day. Today was an absolutely gorgeous day out. Perfect for hiking. At the next campground we just stopped for Ice cream and then pushed on to this shelter. It's a full house again tonight and already there has been a huge rat sighting! Today was a good day!

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Saturday May 11

Days On Trail: 56
Appalachian Trail Miles Hiked: 28.5
Miles from Springer Mountain: 964.8
Stayed at Dicks Dome Shelter

Today I left the Shenendoah. Everyone was stirring in the shelter quite early this morning. Several people needed to get to town 13 miles away before the post office closed so people were leaving as early as 5 am. I finally got up at 7:00 and was on the trail by 7:30. Iceman hit the trail running and planned to stop in town to resupply. I haven't seen him since and am a little sad to think that I may not see him again on this trip. I felt like I was a step ahead of everyone today because I wasn't stopping into town. It was a beautiful day to hike on and the miles came easy. I got to the first shelter off the road at 2:30. It was a nice shelter and that's where most people stopping into town were headed for the night. That would make 19 miles for the day but it was too early to stop. I pushed on another 10 miles two shelters further. I'm here tonight with Leaf, Linus, and one section hiker. They plan on doing 27 mi. tomorrow and if I'm able to, I'll to that too. I filtered my water and made 2 packets of beef flavor Lipton Noodles & Sauce for dinner. I brushed my teeth and laid out my pad & sleeping bag. The section hiker lit a fire so I think I'll sit by it for a bit and then hit the hay. Another great day of marathon mileage hiking!!!

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Sunday May 12

Days On Trail: 57
Appalachian Trail Miles Hiked: 26.8
Miles from Springer Mountain: 991.6
Stayed at Blackburn Trail Shelter

Today I got up at 6:05 and was on the trail by 7. The plan was to do 27 miles and the terrain was looking through so an early start was needed. The three of us, Me, Leaf & Linus woke to find that some creature, most likely a rat had chewed up our shoes during the night. Lunus' leather moccasins were completely destroyed. My boots were all chewed up, the tongue of one boot was all mangled and one of my laces was chewed in half. Most of the days hiking was over a 20 mile section of the trail called "The Rollercoaster." It's a series of seventeen hills very close together with a total of 5,000 feet of climbing. It made for a tough day. It was also super humid and about 80 degrees which didn't make hiking any easier. At one stream this morning I stripped down and bathed off which felt great. I also drank a ton of water today, probably 3 gallons in total, which has gotta be close to what I sweat out. At 3:30 I got to a place called Bears Den Hostel. It was a neat little place but costs $16 to stay for the night so I passed. But I did get 2 pints of Ben & Jerry's ice cream (2160 calories) Yes, that's right, 2! I washed down some "Makin Whoppie Pie" with some "Cookie Dough". While I was there I managed to miss a real bad thunder storm that blew through. I left at 4:45 and hiked to the next shelter 8 miles up. I say shelter but it's more like a little house. It's a place owned by the PATC and there is a huge cabin/house next to the shelter where the caretakers stay. To my great fortune, it's Sunday night and the caretakers made a huge dinner and had leftovers. I was all over that. Pasta with sauce, summer squash, peppers, onions and salad all washed down with vanilla ice cream with strawberry syrup. That's right, more ice cream. Linus and Leaf are here too and we just sat and chilled to music. I just called home and wished my brother Mathew a happy birthday and my mom a happy Mother's Day. Tomorrow I leave Virginia and cross the 1,000 mile mark.

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Monday May 13

Days On Trail: 58
Appalachian Trail Miles Hiked: 18.8
Miles from Springer Mountain: 1010.4
Stayed at Ed Garvy Shelter

Last night I slept on the trail 'center' porch and woke up at 7:00. I knew I had an easy hike into town of only 12 miles so I was in no hurry. I hiked with Linus & Leaf and sweat my butt off because it was so warm out. We got to Harpers Ferry by noon which ment two things. One we left Virginia behind and entered West Virginia and two we crossed the 1,000 mile mark! The Appalachian trail conference has its headquarters in Harpers Ferry so we chilled there for a bit and got our pictures taken for their book. I was the 67th thru hiker so far this year. The three of us then went to get our mail drops. I got a 7 day food resupply, a post card from Dana, and a neat little package with brownies and rice crispy treats from Melissa Chin. Getting mail out here is Quacktastic! We then went to the pizza place where I ordered a pepperoni pie myself and ate 7 ? slices! Now, even though I was able to hike yesterday with two pints of Ben & Jerry's in my stomach, 7 ? slices of pizza proved too great a challenge. I couldn't hike anywhere and was forced to sit and wait 2 hours before hiking the 6 ? miles out of town to the first shelter. I thought I'd be here alone since everyone else stayed in town but when I got here a nice gal named Jen was up here and I was glad because we chatted most of the night. This shelter was built last year and is an awesome two story masterpiece. Very well done. Despite doing only 19 miles, it was a good day. I feel real good going over 1,000 miles. Oh, and by the way I left West Virginia today too and now I'm in Maryland. I'll be in PA tomorrow or the day after. Boy these states are just flying by now.

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Tuesday May 14

Days On Trail: 59
Appalachian Trail Miles Hiked: 24.7
Miles from Springer Mountain: 1035.1
Stayed at Ensign Cowall

I woke up at seven and Jennifer was heading out. That's probably the last time I'll see her. It was chilly out and breezy but not terrible, good hiking weather. The trail through Maryland was relatively easy. Flat, no big climbs, and minimal rocks. I took my time hiking all day and enjoyed the many historical sites along the way. There are a bunch of civil war memorials along the AT which I found interesting. Also, there was a Washington monument at the top of an overlook that I climbed up. I got about a mile from this shelter and a thunderstorm was approaching. I raced down to the shelter and just beat the driving rain. I made two packets of Lipton Noodles & Sauce and now I'm writing in my bag at 7:30 because it's cold outside. My new little thermometer says 45 degrees. The shelter is packed with section hikers. There is one other thru hiker here named Sion. He started the day before me and is moving along quick too. I'm exhausted and will go to bed soon.

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Wednesday May 15

Days On Trail: 60
Appalachian Trail Miles Hiked: 29.9
Miles from Springer Mountain: 1065
Stayed at Quary Gap Shelter

Only .1 miles away from my 2nd 30 mile day! I woke up in the commotion of a very full shelter stirring. Once there is movement in a shelter it's hard to sleep. I got up, quickly ate two cereal bars, packed up and hit the trail at 7:30. I would wind up hiking the entire day with Sion. We made good time and did 10 miles by 11 am. My plan was to do 25 miles but that shelter was .3 off the trail and didn't have water so we hiked the additional 5 miles to the next shelter and here I am. It was interesting hiking with Sion. We both know we're the fastest two out here and hiking together is kinda neat. It beats racing each other. Today we left Maryland and entered Pennsylvania. In crossing the border we crossed the Mason-Dixon line. We also went through Pen-Mar Park which was very large. Leaving Maryland made the 6th state I've been through so far. Entering Pennsylvania makes me realize how close I am to home. I figure I'll make a big mileage the next two days and get to Duncannon by Sat. noon to pick up my mail drop. Then I'll take one week to get to the gap & see the fam.

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Thursday May 16

Days On Trail: 61
Appalachian Trail Miles Hiked: 24.6
Miles from Springer Mountain: 1089.6
Stayed at James Fry Shelter

Another 20+ mile day. It seems like they've been coming easier and easier lately. Sion and I woke up and were on the trail by 8 am. We set a quick pace and were 7.5 miles to the first shelter in just over two hours. The next shelter came just as quick. We then hiked down to Pine Grove Furnace State Park where we intended to go to the store there where we would attempt "The Half Gallon Challenge" which is basically a challenge to eat a ? gallon of ice cream at basically the half way point in the trail. We were looking forward to it all morning and even ate a light lunch but the store was closed and only open on weekends. Bummer! We sulked a little and then found in our reading that there is a store one mile farther than where we're staying tonight that is also a valid spot to try the ? gallon challenge. So we're happy about that. I'm kinda skeptical about doing it for breakfast but I'm still gunna try! Just after the park was the sign for the half-way point of the AT. I've hiked about 1084 miles and really made it to the half way point. Crazy! We got to the shelter around 7. I cooked dinner and now I'm lying in bed writing. Today I thought a lot about how I'm getting closer to home and how good it will be to get home a couple nights soon. I also began thinking about how I might have some company from fiends and family on the trail. Either hiking or camping with me along the way. The plan is to hike 26 miles tomorrow so I'll only have 8 miles to hike into town on Saturday so I can get my mail drop by noon. So far this week has gone as planned. Hiking with Sion has helped my keep my pace quick and my mileage up. So far Pennsylvania has been on the easy side and boy do we cross a lot of roads in this state! I'll sleep tonight and will hopefully dream of finishing my half gallon of ice cream.

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Friday May 17

Days On Trail: 62
Appalachian Trail Miles Hiked: 26.5
Miles from Springer Mountain: 1116.9
Stayed at Darlington Shelter

Today we woke at seven and hiked 1.5 miles down to the deli. The half gallon challenge was about to begin. The hardest part was picking a flavor. Smart money says to pick vanilla because it's the easiest to eat, but I never liked the "smart money." I went with my favorite, cookies and cream. It was one of the highest calorie ice creams, I later found out. 210 calories per serving and a half gallon has 16 servings so for those of you counting at home that's 3360 calories. It was me, Sion and Packhorse. We sat at a picnic table and began eating. 40 minutes later all three of us finished and officially succeeded in the half gallon challenge. It was tough getting the last bit down but I managed, despite a numb tongue. We sat around and digested for an hour and then hit the trail. Sion and I wound up doing a 26 ? mile day across tons of farmland and lots of roads. It wound up raining at the end of the day too. Today was hard on my feet and we didn't get to the shelter till 8pm.

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Saturday May 18

Days On Trail: 63
Appalachian Trail Miles Hiked: 15.9
Miles from Springer Mountain: 1132
Stayed at Clarks Ferry Shelter

It poured all night last night and got quite cold too. I was very happy that I still had my 20? bag and didn't trade it in for a fleece bag. Sion and I were on the trail at 7:30 and I thought it was only 8 miles into town but after a second look I realized it was 11 miles. I had to really hoof it to make it to town for my mail drop by noon when the post office closed. I made it there at 11:30, and was relieved to have made it. Sion and I then went and did laundry, which I needed badly. Then we went and had lunch at a local Duncannon caf?. I got a burger and fries and the burger didn't exactly agree with me. I'm beginning to wonder if my body is rejecting meat at this point. I then went and made a few phone calls to friends and family. Sion met his family and he will be hiking with his brother from now on so I'm guessing I'm not going to see him again. I hiked 4 more miles up the hill out of town to the first shelter and thought about going on the 7 miles to the next shelter but it was already 6 pm and starting to rain. So here I am in a shelter with three other guys that are section hikers. One of them that I dubbed Torch because he nearly burned down the shelter while cooking dinner has a dog which is running through the poison ivy around the shelter. It's cold again tonight and I'm glad I'm warm and dry in the shelter as it rains outside. Oh, I almost forgot, along with my food drop I also received 3 surprises. A bag of goodies from Reina, a letter and sports section showing the nets making the eastern conference finals, and a note and a hat from my Aunt Connie. It's a really neat baseball cap that she got embroidered to say "Jersey Joe" with a silhouette of a backpacker on it. It's awesome! Thanks everyone, you made me smile!

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Sunday May 19

Days On Trail: 64
Appalachian Trail Miles Hiked: 24.3
Miles from Springer Mountain: 1156.3
Stayed at Rausch Gap Shelter

It was super cold last night again. When I awoke, my thermometer said 32?. Kind of crazy cold weather for the end of May. Once again, I'm thankful that I still have my 20 degree sleeping bag. A couple people in the shelter only had fleece liners and they suffered all night. It turned out to be a clear cool day in the 50's, great hiking weather. It was a little strange hiking by myself again but I made good time and got to this shelter at 6:00. I'm here alone now and I doubt I'll get company tonight but we'll see. It's going to be cold again tonight, it's getting chilly already now at 7:30. Cool nights like this are when eating warm noodles really hits the spot. I can't help but daydream while I hike about hiking past home and seeing family and friends. I'm pretty excited to get to NJ. It feels like I've been out for 2 years, not 2 months. Time really seems like it slows down out here. So much can happen in a day out here that it just feels longer for some reason.

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Monday May 20

Days On Trail: 65
Appalachian Trail Miles Hiked: 17.4
Miles from Springer Mountain: 1173.7
Stayed at 501 Shelter

Only 17 miles today but this is a great shelter and the next one is 15 miles further. This shelter is actually a converted garage that is in some guys back yard. It has 4 walls and bunks. Not too bad. I woke up and was on the trail by 8:00. It was very cool again today and every time I stopped I got cold. I knew I had a short mileage day so I took my time and stopped at every view until I got chilly and had to start hiking again. I'm here tonight with an older fella named Pancake who is a retired IBM executive section hiking the whole AT. I can't wait until it warms up so that I don't have to climb in my sleeping bag every night to stay warm. Today I sat on a rocky ledge and ate lunch and counted 16 hawks flying right near me, just riding the wind currents. A really cool sight.

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Tuesday May 21

Days On Trail: 66
Appalachian Trail Miles Hiked: 29.8
Miles from Springer Mountain: 1203.5
Stayed at Windsor Furnace Shelter

Today Pancake got up at 5:00 and I heard him rushing about so I got up shortly after. I was on the trail by 7:00, my earliest start in quite a while. The early start was key because I wanted to go 30 miles two shelters up. I made good time and hiked 12 miles by noon. I didn't stop too much because it was so cold out and I get cold quick when I stop hiking. It was in the low 30's and I could see my breath! At mid afternoon I caught up with a guy named "Boo Boo" and hiked into the town of Port Clinton with him. We checked out the outfitter and realized we could stay for free underneath the town pavilion. I'm proud of myself for not stopping in town and hiking the 6 miles up the hill to the next shelter. I'm here tonight in the shelter with just "Boo Boo." I made some Lipton Noodles and Sauce and now I'm in my bag insulated from another cool night. Delaware Water Gap is only 3 days and 70 miles away.

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Wednesday May 22

Days On Trail: 67
Appalachian Trail Miles Hiked: 26.5
Miles from Springer Mountain: 1230
Stayed at Baked Oven Knob Shelter

Hit the trail by 8 today. There were two great views this morning, "The Pulpit" and The Pinnacle." The Pinnacle was especially nice and I wound up wasting an hour up there taking in the sun & the view. Today's theme was rocks and lots of them. This is the rockiest part of the trail which made hiking difficult and slow. Today's 26.5 mile day took me until 8pm to complete. It was a gorgeous day though and there were plenty of great views. Only 2 more day until I hit the Gap and get to go home!

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Thursday May 23

Days On Trail: 68
Appalachian Trail Miles Hiked: 23.5
Miles from Springer Mountain: 1253.5
Stayed at Leroya.Smith Shelter

Today I woke up, started hiking, then stopped 2 hours later for breakfast. The trail was super rocky again today. Around mid-day I got to Lehigh Gap and crossed the Lehigh River. The climb out of the Gap was straight up and required some minor rock climbing. Apparently there was a zinc plant in the area years ago that just devastated the area. The trail for the next 5 miles was through a baron tree-less desolate area. Kind of a shame but it made for some nice views. The sun was beating down on me all day too which along with the rocks really wiped me out. I struggled the last two miles to the shelter. It seemed like I was just out of energy. Also I didn't really have any food left so I was kinda bummed that dinner would be light. But, someone must be looking down on me watching out for me because when I got to the shelter there were a bunch of day hikers visiting a thru hiker and boy did they bring food! They just started throwing leftovers at me, I guess they didn't want to lug them down the mountain. I ate salad, melon, cherries, coleslaw, cookies and pretzels. What wonderful timing. Tomorrow I hope to get an early start and hike the 20 miles to the Gap quickly. Can't wait to get home!

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Friday May 24

Days On Trail: 69
Appalachian Trail Miles Hiked: 21.5
Miles from Springer Mountain: 1275
Stayed at Home/Del Water Gap

As I sit here at the Delaware Water Gap I feel satisfied with what I've done so far. A little over two months ago my brother Andrew and I drove 15 hours down to Georgia. He drove home the next day, I walked home and just got here. Almost everyone I talk to from home can't believe how quickly it seems that I got here, like I just left. For me, it feels like I've been out here two years instead of two months. I've been through so much on this journey that each day feels like several days. Most people agree that Harpers Ferry is the psychological halfway point on the trail, for me it's getting here, to Jersey. I couldn't sleep last night, perhaps because of the heat or the full shelter, or maybe the anticipation of going home. At 5am I got up and hit the trail 20 minutes later. I had 20 miles to hike to the Gap and I wanted to get here early to get home at a decent time. I got to the gap at 2:30 and at 4:00 my mother picked me up. I think Mom was a little shocked to see her oldest son bearded and much skinnier. It was good to see her again for the first time in over 2 months. When I got home it was strange seeing my brothers for the first time. They all seemed pretty shocked to see how skinny I was and how different I looked. Me, my 4 brothers, my friend Brian and his girlfriend Stacey, and my brothers girlfriend Kate all went to Applebee's for dinner and I ate till I was stuffed. A good night, happy to be home. I also took my first shower in quite a while.

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Saturday May 25

Days On Trail: 70
Appalachian Trail Miles Hiked: 27
Miles from Springer Mountain: 1302
Stayed at Home/Route 206

Today I woke up a little before 5am. My brother Andy and my sister Cristina planned to join me hiking for the day. We ate eggs for breakfast, made lunch, and packed up to go. I carried all the food, water, and clothes for all 3 of us in my pack and got rid of some stuff I wouldn't need like my tent and sleeping bag. Mom dropped us off at the Gap at 7:00. We hiked a good pace and the terrain was relatively easy so we made good time. We had a beautiful day for hiking and enjoyed walking many ridges with views, sitting at Sunfish Pond and climbing a fire tower. It was great hiking with Andy and Cristina and they did a great job hiking the 27 miles today. They both ran out of gas at abut 23 miles but pushed on like troopers to the end. I'm pretty sure they'll both have a hard time walking this week. Mom picked us up at Route 206 in Culvers Gap at 6:00. I showered and went out to dinner with some friends: Brian, Stacey, Mark, Markley, Colleen, Tom, and Amy. We ate at Outback and again I'm stuffed. It's 2am now and I need some sleep.

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Sunday May 26

Days On Trail: 71
Appalachian Trail Miles Hiked: 24.2
Miles from Springer Mountain: 1336.2
Stayed at Home/Route 284

For the second day in a row I woke up at home a little after 5am and packed up for a day on the trail. My brother Mathew joined me today. Mom dropped us off at 7:30 and we had a good morning of hiking in overcast weather. 14 miles and 5 ? hours later we got to High Point State Park where my two sisters and two brothers met me with lots of food and drinks. We all spent 2 hours picnicking and then Mathew and I continued 10 more miles. We got picked up at 6:00 and I showered and went to my Grandparent's to visit and eat a good dinner. Today was a great day, Mathew was awesome company all day and surprised me with how strongly he hiked. Eating lunch and dinner with family was nice too. I've been home 3 days now and it's been everything I had hoped it would be and more so far.

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Monday May 27

Days On Trail: 72
Appalachian Trail Miles Hiked: 26.9
Miles from Springer Mountain: 1353.1
Stayed at Home/Route 17A

Woke up at 5:30 and my brother Crock drove me to the trail head. I began hiking at 7:00 and within minutes I was already sweating. It turned out to be a real hot muggy day. The hiking today through Jersey all seemed vaguely familiar. I had backpacked through the area several times when I was younger. I hiked the ridge above Greenwood Lake and could hear all the boats zooming around the lake on this Memorial day. I crossed out of New Jersey and into New York. Eight states down! Only 6 more to go. My mother picked me up and even hiked into the woods to meet me which surprised me. Taking a shower at the end of the day makes such a big difference. I had a relaxing night.

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Tuesday May 28

Days On Trail: 73
Appalachian Trail Miles Hiked: 24
Miles from Springer Mountain: 1377.1
Stayed at Home/Palisades Parkway

Another 5am start and my brother Crock dropped me off on route 17A up near Greenwood Lake. I felt real tired and unmotivated all morning. Then I ran into a guy named "Sir Isaac". We wound up hiking the rest of the day together which made the day seem to go quicker. It was real hot and muggy and the bugs were atrocious. I even put on my winter hat to keep the gnats out of my ears. It wound up raining the last 3 hours which wasn't bad because it cooled me down a bit. Andy picked me up and I spent the night relaxing at home. It's my last night home and I just wanted to sit and enjoy it. Right now I'm going through my gear trying to figure out what I don't need.

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Wednesday May 29

Days On Trail: 74
Appalachian Trail Miles Hiked: 9
Miles from Springer Mountain: 1386.1
Stayed at (Tented at Hemlock Springs Campsite)

Today was my last day home so I planned just a half of day hiking. I woke up at 8:30 and lazily ate breakfast and packed up. I just hung out at home, watched some TV and checked email. Mom drove me back to the trail on the Palisades Pkwy at 2:30. I hiked up bear mountain and got about 9 miles today to this primitive campsite. I cooked dinner and set up my tent for the first time in quite a while. I'm happy I have a tent tonight though because the bugs are horrendous today. It pains me to write a single digit number in the mileage section but it was well worth the extra hang time at home. Today I crossed over the Hudson river. I didn't get to walk through the zoo however because I got there too late and it was closed. I'm hoping for an early start tomorrow to make up for today. It was great being home the past 4 days. I want to thank my whole family for making my stay home really enjoyable surpassing my expectations of being home. Everyon really went out of their way to give me rides, hike with me, and basically wait on me hand and foot. Dorothy was right on when she said "there's no place like home"

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Thursday May 30

Days On Trail: 75
Appalachian Trail Miles Hiked: 23
Miles from Springer Mountain: 1409.1
Stayed at RPH Shelter

Last night was pretty warm and I didn't even get into my bag. Just slept on top. I was happy to be in my tent though because I heard the mosquitos buzzing about all night. The skeeters and gnats have been especially bad the past 3 or 4 days. I can't take 3 steps without shooing one away. I got on the trail at 7:45 and hiked at a steady pace all day. I had thoughts of going 9 more miles today to the next shelter but when I got here at 6:30 my feet were hurting so I stopped. Besides when I got here Boo Boo, Redfog, and Tuna were here eating pizza that they got from up the road and they had leftovers that I gladly ate. I put Dr. Shoals pads in my boots to see if they would help my sore toes but they wound up pushing my toes too far up and caused irritation. No more Dr. Shoals! This shelter is one of the nicer ones and has bunks. I'm thinking about my dilemma with my food drop. I'm 45 miles away from Cornwall bridge and only have until noon on Saturday or else I have to wait until Monday.

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Friday May 31

Days On Trail: 76
Appalachian Trail Miles Hiked: 29.6
Miles from Springer Mountain: 1438.7
Stayed at Ten Mile River Shelter

Today started out with some confused hiking and ended the same way. I woke up and hit the trail by 8:00 and started with a quick pace because I was trying to get as close to Cornwall Bridge as possible. About an hour and a half into my hike I ran into Tuna, who had stayed at the shelter last night with me. He was hiking the opposite way and initially I thought he had gotten dropped off further up the trail and was hiking south. After a short discussion it was determined that I was in fact hiking the wrong way! South! Somehow I have no clue how, I got turned around and hiked 30 min. southward. I felt so stupid and was kicking myself all the way back up the hill. I'm still not sure how it happened but I lost a whole hour with that mishap. Luckily Tuna was close by and stopped me. To my defense, later that night Sir Isaac said he did the same exact thing and said that the trail was screwed up. After that mishap, I hiked on for most of the humid afternoon at an average pace. I was at a shelter at 4:00pm with Redfrog and a small thunderstorm blew through. He said he heard storms were expected tonight and that he was staying put. I figured thunderstorms were hit or miss and pushed on still thinking Cornwall Bridge was doable. Everything was fine until about 7:00 when the most magnificent thunderstorm I've ever been a part of blew in. It lasted for 30 min. and had tons of crashing thunder, lightening, 65mph winds, falling branches, pouring rain, flooded trails, and cherry size hail that hurt so bad when it hit me that at one point I had to hoist my pack over my head. After I realized there was nothing to do but keep walking, I actually started to enjoy the power and force of the storm. I walked into the next shelter, which was almost full, dripping wet. I ate dinner and decided to push on. It was after 8:00 so I took out my headlamp and flashlight. Nothing like a little night hiking. I planned to hike all night, but when I got up to the top of the mountain 3 miles away and realized it had taken 3 hours, I was severely doubting this night hike push to Cornwall. Shortly after I began descending the mountain, my batteries died in my headlamp and flash light. Never again will I pass up Duracell or Energizer batteries for Rayovacs to save money. I walked in the dark and felt my way for half an hour until I remembered that mom had just put new batteries in my camera, so I switched the batteries to my flashlight and walked my wet butt to the next shelter which luckily was close. I had had enough night hiking and was giving up my mail drop race. When I got to the shelter there were 2 people there and I jumped into the open spot. One of the people was Sir Isaac and his dog Jack. He was surprised to se me stagger in at midnight. It was a long strange day to say the least.

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Saturday June 1

Days On Trail: 77
Appalachian Trail Miles Hiked: 15.7
Miles from Springer Mountain: 1454.4
Stayed at Stewart Hollow Brook Shelter

This morning was a lazy one. I felt defeated because I was missing my mail drop. I casually hiked the 8 miles to the road and hitched into a town called Kent. I decided to resupply there at a grocery store and forward my mail package ahead to a different town. I bought food and then ate lunch with Sir Isaac. We then hitched back to the trail and hiked the 7 miles to the next shelter. I bought hotdogs, buns, and mustard and he got smores ingredients so we made a campfire, even though the sign says "No Fires" and cooked some dogs & smores. A good night!

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Sunday June 2

Days On Trail: 78
Appalachian Trail Miles Hiked: 18.3
Miles from Springer Mountain: 1472.7
Stayed at (Tented Beside Housatonic River, Great Falls)

This morning was one of my laziest mornings so far on this trip. I woke up at 8:00 and Sir Isaac and I lazily sat around and ate breakfast until 10:00. then we walked out to the river and he jumped in to bathe and I just toweled off in the stream. Then I got some water that I was not in the mood to pump so I iodined it. By the time we finally started hiking it was 11:00. We hiked for a while over some annoying rough terrain with lots of ups and downs. We stopped for lunch around 1:30 and a guy walked by day hiking who I swore looked like Gipetto from Pinocchio and said to us, "You guys will never get anywhere sitting there like that." If only he knew how far we'd come! Sir Isaac got a little ticked at the comment but didn't say anything. I just whistled "High diddly dee, an actor's life for me" as we blew by him later on. We hiked till about 6 when we came out on a road and much to our delight there was an agriculture school there and the FFA was having a BBQ chicken dinner cookout! We couldn't pass that up and stopped in and made our $8.00 donation for a huge piece of chicken, baked potato, buttered roll, salad, ice cream, iced tea and coffee. What a score! Incredible timing to say the least. With full bellies we walked about 3 more miles to a flat spot by the river and I pitched my tent while he set up his tarp. It's technically illegal to camp here but I doubt anyone will notice. This is one time when carrying the weight of a tent is paying off as I lie here in my bug screen while Sir Isaac complains about all the spiders and ticks crawling all over him. It was nice having someone to hike with all day and our random conversations certainly made the day go quicker. Sir Isaac is however meeting his fianc?e tomorrow night so it looks like tomorrow will be our last day hiking together for a while. We plan on walking early tomorrow and cranking out about 30 miles for him to meet his fiance? And me, because I can. Tomorrow I'll hike out of Connecticut and into Mass.

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Monday June 3

Days On Trail: 79
Appalachian Trail Miles Hiked: 30
Miles from Springer Mountain: 1502.7
Stayed at (Tented in Field North of U.S. 7)

This morning I woke up at 6am and found Sir Isaac had just woken up too. It was chilly last night and while he was cold all night in his tarp and fleece liner, I was toasty warm in my tent and 20° bag. We tore down camp and made excellent mileage to lunch. We passed the time with many discussions from sports to gear. He was meeting his fianc?e Megan at Rt. 7 which was 29 miles away so I figured I'd join him and camp shortly after. We got to the road around 7:45pm and his fianc?e was waiting for him. I joined them for dinner at a restaurant up the road and got a burger and fries. They then dropped me off in the dark and I night hiked almost a mile to a grassy field next to the river and set up my tent. It's another chilly night, I'd guess about 40°. I'm happy to have done 30 miles but kind of sad to leave Sir Isaac behind. I'll keep on moving though, albeit alone. One more milestone today. I left Connecticut and entered Massachusetts. Another state down, that's 10 complete, Mass is my 11th state!

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Tuesday June 4

Days On Trail: 80
Appalachian Trail Miles Hiked: 20.3
Miles from Springer Mountain: 1523
Stayed at (Tented Just North of Tyringham Road)

I woke with the sun beating down on my tent. Luckily the spot I picked, in the dark, to set up my tent was a good one and I wasn't bothered during the night. It's interesting to see the spot pick in daylight. I didn't hang my food bag and luckily no critters got into it. I picked all the slugs off of my tent and took it down. I got on the trail at 8am and started up the mountain. I took my time today but wound up hiking all day so I broke 20 miles which is good. There was no shelter even remotely close to where I wanted to hike to today so here I am once again tenting it. That's 3 nights in a row! Some kind of record or something. I cooked dinner fir the first time in a few days and now I'm lying here hoping it doesn't rain tonight. It sprinkled before and is still cloudy.

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Wednesday June 5

Days On Trail: 81
Appalachian Trail Miles Hiked: 24.3
Miles from Springer Mountain: 1547.3
Stayed at Kaywood Lean-To

Last night it rained a little bit but I stayed dry inside my tent. When I woke I was surprised to find my tent dry. I broke down camp and was on the trail shortly after 8am. Today was quite warm and very muggy. I passed two pretty ponds this morning but the bugs were out in full force. Around noon I crossed over the Mass. Pike (90). Now I definitely feel like I'm in Massachusetts because I used to drive into Boston on the Mass. Pike and now I'm north of there. I got to October Mt. Shelter at 4pm and decided to crank out 9 more miles to this shelter. It drizzled on and off all afternoon but stayed muggy. This shelter is a big one and there are two people here with me. I'm on the second story by myself. There is a pretty wicked thunderstorm rolling in right now at 9:45 and I'm sure glad I'm in a shelter. Tomorrow I plan on grabbing breakfast when the trail passes through Dalton and then picking up my mail drop in Cheshire. If all goes well I'll push on to the shelter and make a 24 mile day.

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Thursday June 6

Days On Trail: 82
Appalachian Trail Miles Hiked: 23.3
Miles from Springer Mountain: 1570.6
Stayed at Wilbur Clearing Shelter

As I lie here at 9:50 in the shelter listening to rain fall around me I feel pretty content about my day. Mother Goose and some guy who forget his name woke at 5 something and left before 7. I woke up and heard it raining pretty hard and rolled over and went back to sleep. Every time I woke up I did the same thing. Just hoping that the next time I woke up it would have stopped. Oh, by the way, last night that thunderstorm hit real hard, lots of loud crashes of thunder, wind and driving rain. A few minutes into it, the roof started leaking over me and I had to move all my stuff to the other side of the shelter. The rain never did cease this morning so I reluctantly got up, ate breakfast and packed up. Starting out in the rain first thing in the morning isn't fun. I had an easy 3 mile hike into Dalton. I was walking down the street in town when I saw a house with a sign that said water with an arrow. I needed some water so I went and filled up my bottles at the house. Then the guy that lives there, Tom, came and offered me Ice Cream for breakfast. I graciously accepted and this dude brings out this enormous sundae complete with whipped cream, sprinkles, fudge, and 3 kinds of cookies all served on a fancy tray with a doily. I was in shock and was thinking to myself 'What is this guy doing?' Turns out, this guy is in the handbook and lets hikers tent in his backyard and sleep on his porch. Real nice guy. I wound up talking to him for about an hour. I figured after all the work he did on the sundae I had to hang for a bit. I then got back out in the rain and hiked the 9 miles to Cheshire, MA where my mail drop was along with a letter from my sister Ana. Mom did a great job of keeping the weight down on this 8 day re-supply. I then hiked to this shelter 11 more miles but not before going over Mt. Greylock. It's the tallest mountain in Mass. And has a lodge on top. The mountain inspired much of Thoreau's writing. The lodge costs $68 so I just kept right on walking. There is one other dude in the shelter and plenty of active mice. I got in after dark and didn't feel much like cooking so I ate 3 bagels which surprisingly have 400 calories each. Now off to sleep to ignore all these pesky mice.

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Friday June 7

Days On Trail: 83
Appalachian Trail Miles Hiked: 15.4
Miles from Springer Mountain: 1586
Stayed at Congdon Camp Shelter

Today was one of my lazier days. I did the same thing as yesterday where I woke to rain and kept going back to sleep hoping it would stop. Today it worked! Of course I laid around until 8:30 but finally after days of rain it stopped. It was still a real wet muddy hike down Mt. Greylock and back up the next mountain. My boots were still drenched all day long and pruned feet were beginning to ache so I decided to pull up short today and rest a bit. It was nice getting into camp at 5:30 and taking my time getting water and cooking dinner. I even got a bit of laundry done in the stream. There are a few other people here with me at the shelter. All of them are starting the long trail which runs along the A.T. for about 100 miles. It's pretty chilly tonight and once again I'm glad I held onto my winter bag. I crossed into Vermont today which is another small milestone. Only 2 more states after this one.

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Saturday June 8

Days On Trail: 84
Appalachian Trail Miles Hiked: 23.3
Miles from Springer Mountain: 1609.3
Stayed at Story Spring Shelter

Today was a pretty average day on the trail. Things are finally starting to dry up out here too after that storm a few days ago. My boots are still wet actually which is definitely taking a toll on my feet. I got on the trail at 8am but for some reason only hiked 7 miles by noon. I made up for it in the afternoon with a healthy pace. I was tempted to stay at the shelter at 15 miles because it was so nice but I pushed on to here and got my mileage up. I'm here with a kid named Isaac and we're the only two at this shelter tonight. He just started yesterday and is hiking the long trail. I just got a kick out of watching him try to cook on his gimmick wood stove. He wound up tossing it into the woods. I saw a couple beavers swimming around in a pond today and they had built a pretty impressive dam. I also saw lots of moose tracks and droppings but no moose, yet!

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Sunday June 9

Days On Trail: 85
Appalachian Trail Miles Hiked: 18.4
Miles from Springer Mountain: 1627.7
Stayed at Spruce-Peak Shelter

I woke and hit the trail by 8:30 this morning. As soon as I left the shelter it began drizzling. It only lasted for a half hour and then it cleared up for the rest of the day. I spent the morning climbing Stratton Mountain, known primarily for skiing. There was a sweet view from the fire tower at the top. I then headed down to Stratton Pond where I sat for a little while eating lunch. The rest of the afternoon made for relatively easy hiking and I got to this shelter at 5pm. I considered going on but it was 12 more miles to the next shelter and I was feeling lazy and didn't want to set up my tent. Besides, this shelter is really nice with a sliding door and a wood burning stove. There are two French Canadians here, who have been speaking French all night, and that kid Isaac again. Tomorrow I plan on getting up early and cranking out about 30 miles to make up for today's short day.

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Monday June 10

Days On Trail: 86
Appalachian Trail Miles Hiked: 31.6
Miles from Springer Mountain: 1659.3
Stayed at Minerva Hinchey Shelter

31.6 miles! Not too shabby. But not without consequence as I've gotten my first blister since the first week of this trip. It's on my left ring toe and is the result of my feet being so wet lately. I got a real early start thanks to those two French Canadians who woke up at 5am and made a huge racket. I was on the trail at 6am and made excellent time hiking over Bromley Mountain, which is a ski slope. I pretty much hiked nonstop all day with a few 5 minute breaks. I arrived here tonight quite exhausted. There are three others here tonight, one thru-hiker, Tigerpaw, and two long trailers. I was thinking of doing a 29 mile day tomorrow but now I'm not sure with my feet pretty beat up. Also, I have to go over Killington & Pico Peaks tomorrow which won't be easy. It takes forever to go to the top of Killington in a chair lift. I can't imagine hiking it. The bugs were out in full force again today which is never a good thing. I'm exhausted. Time for a well earned rest.

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Tuesday June 11

Days On Trail: 87
Appalachian Trail Miles Hiked: 21.8
Miles from Springer Mountain: 1681.1
Stayed at Tucker Johnson Shelter

Today I was on the trail by 8am. I had planned on getting out earlier to get a jump on my 29 mile day but I was real tired after that 30 day yesterday and couldn't get up. The terrain was tough most of the day and I spent the afternoon climbing Killington and Pico. The trail is definitely getting more mountainous up here now. There was a cool lodge on top of Killington. As I began descending Killington we got a good 20 minutes of hard sideways rain. The wind was blowing fiercely too. It rained just enough to soak my boots again and make the trail muddy and slippery. After descending Pico I found that the trail was recently rerouted and the shelter I had planned to stay at was now off the trail. At about 6:30pm I reached the split of the A.T. and the Long Trail. The Long Trail continues northward in Vermont until it hits Canada. I decided to hike ? mile on the Long Trail to the shelter since the nearest shelter on the A.T. was still 8 miles away. I'm here tonight with one other guy heading south. Now to rest up for a shot at a big day tomorrow.

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Wednesday June 12

Days On Trail: 88
Appalachian Trail Miles Hiked: 23.2
Miles from Springer Mountain: 1704.3
Stayed at The Shire Inn Hotel in Woodstock

It poured last night. When I woke up this morning it was still pouring. It poured all day. I'm wet. Well, actually I'm dry now but I was soaked all day long. It was a struggle to get out of my warm dry bag, put on wet clothes and boots and start hiking in the rain. At about noon I hit the first shelter and made my first hot lunch of the trip, oatmeal. I was so cold at this point that I was shivering and borderline hypothermic. The warm oatmeal didn't really help too much so I started hiking. 30 minutes later I once again I could not feel my fingers. During lunch a thru hiker named "Tiger Paw showed up and suggested a bed & breakfast between the next two shelters. I knew I wasn't making the second one, too far, and the first was too short a day so I said why not. We hiked together the rest of the day in the rain. We got the road that he thought the B&B was on but it turns out it was a couple miles further. We wound up chatting with a couple on the side of the road and the guy offered us a ride. At this point it was 7:30 and we were wet and miserable so we took a ride into the town of Woodstock and are staying at the Shire Inn. As it turns out Tiger Paw is a physician so he charged the room and said it was on him. I was very grateful and thanked him. We went to dinner at a snazzy Bentley's and I had a burger and a brownie sundae. I came back here, showered, then watched the Lakers win the NBA championship sweeping the Nets. I'm now going to check out my maps and plan my day tomorrow. Hopefully I'll make it into Hanover and get my package before the post office closes.

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Thursday June 13

Days On Trail: 89
Appalachian Trail Miles Hiked: 23.4
Miles from Springer Mountain: 1727.7
Stayed at Velvet Rocks Shelter

The plan today was to wake up early so I could get to Hanover by 5 to get my mail drop. Tiger Paw and I woke at . I took a shower and then we walked across the street to the market to find out it didn't open until 7. We waited ‘till 7 and then I bought a quart of OJ, a box of glazed munchkins, and a bag of 6 blueberry bagels. We ate and then started walking to the trail hitchhiking all the way. We walked about 2 miles before some guy stopped and gave us a ride. We hit the trail around 9:00 which was super late considering I had 21 miles between me and my mail drop. I broke away from Tiger Paw right away and started booking. I made good time but my late start left me no choice; at 2:30 I started jogging. I jogged just about the whole way into Hanover and got to the post office at 4:45. Mission accomplished. When I walked out of the post office I raised my box over my head in victory. That's the first time I had run on the trail for an extended period of time. Hanover was an interesting town. It's where Dartmouth college is located. I called home and let my family know I was OK and spoke to Mathew about possibly joining me for my last week in Maine. That would be really neat if he could join me. Oh, by the way, I also got letters Glenn Borgman and "The Markleys." I didn't feel like spending cash to eat so I went into the food store and bought a big box of cheerios and a half gallon of milk. I then hiked the 1 ? miles up to the shelter and ate the whole box of cheerios. I'm here with 2 older guys who have been hiking the trail for years. It feels like a relief to have gotten my mail drop and not have to rush, well not until the next drop anyway. The next few days should be some of the toughest as I enter the Whites. I was thankful for a nice sunny day today.

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Friday June 14

Days On Trail: 90
Appalachian Trail Miles Hiked: 21.9
Miles from Springer Mountain: 1749.6
Stayed at Firewarden's Cabin Shelter

Today I woke up at 7 and hung around talking to those two old guys for an hour. I was feeling sluggish and didn't make very good time in the morning. The day was spent going over 3 mountains and I was happy to get to this shelter on top of the third mountain just as it started drizzling. This shelter is 4 sided with a door which is good because it's so windy up here. There is a big group of training camp counselors up here. I'd say 10 all together and they're all crammed in the shelter with me. I'm sure having all the bodies in here will warm the place up. They gave me food so I didn't have to cook tonight.

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Saturday June 15

Days On Trail: 91
Appalachian Trail Miles Hiked: 20
Miles from Springer Mountain: 1769.6
Stayed at Hikers Welcome Hostel in Glen Cliff

All those people that stayed with me last night woke me up at 6am and made quite a racket. It was raining and gusty outside so I rolled back over and slept till 8 amid the chaos around me. I finally did get up and left the dry warm shelter to hike in blustery wind and rain. I hiked all day at a slow stady pace and didn't see very many people out today probably because of the poor weather. I got to N.H.25 and decided to check out the hostel instead of hiking the mile to the next shelter. It's a nice place and there are 8 other people here so it's nice chatting with former thru hikers. Tomorrow I officially enter the Whites with my assent of Mt. Moosilauke.

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Sunday June 16

Days On Trail: 92
Appalachian Trail Miles Hiked: 17
Miles from Springer Mountain: 1786.6
Stayed at Eliza Brook Shelter

I woke up and lazed around at the hostel. I had breakfast and someone even made coffee. By the time I hit the trail it was almost 9:00. the 3800 ft. assent of Mt. Moosilaki went by faster than I expected. I think the coffee powered me up the mountain. It was very foggy on top and visibility was only about 50 feet. I could imagine the views up there must be breathtaking. As I walked along the rocky ridge shrouded in mist it was a bit eerie how still and quiet it was. It was as if I were the only person on the planet. The descent down the mountain was super steep and in many places so steep that metal rings came out of the shear rock cliffs. It was pretty though because the trail was flanked on the left side by a magnificent waterfall. The next mountain I would go over took me the rest of the afternoon and was some of the most miserable hiking I've done on this trip. Lots of drops and rock cliffs on a very wet and rainy day. It was 7:30 when I got here and knew I was done fir the night. Only 17 miles but a very hard 17.

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Monday June 17

Days On Trail: 93
Appalachian Trail Miles Hiked: 11.6
Miles from Springer Mountain: 1798.2
Stayed at (Tented at Liberty Springs Campsite)

Today is my 3 month anniversary on the trail. I got on the trail early and candy got ahead of me so I kept on chugging up the mountain alone. I'm a little worried about my food supply lasting until Gorham so I decided to stop at around noon at the "Lonesome Lake Hut" to beg for food. I had heard that if you show up at these touristy huts sometimes they have leftover grub for thru hikers. There were a bunch of baked goods on the counter and the girl said I could eat as much as I wanted for a dollar. Score! So I sat there for ? hour and stuffed myself like a pig. The next 3 miles downhill went OK but then all of a sudden it hit me. I'm still not sure if it was because I ate too much or because I ate something bad but I started feeling ill. The next Mountain I had to climb just about did me in. I puked 3 times on the way up and started feeling dizzy. Luckily there was a campsite at the top of the hill because I couldn't go any further. The campsites & shelters in the Whites are $8 per night. Luckily I talked to the caretaker and she let me do a work for stay. Basically I went out into the woods and dug up a tree and replanted it by the Privy. I was too sick to eat dinner and just crashed here in my tent. I feel awful!!! And what a crappy mileage day too.

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Tuesday June 18

Days On Trail: 94
Appalachian Trail Miles Hiked: 13.5
Miles from Springer Mountain: 1811.7
Stayed at (Tented Just North of Guyot Shelter)

Well last night blew chunks, literally. I woke up 5 times and hurriedly unzipped my tent, hurled myself halfway out and threw up. It was like a routine all night. I really felt terrible. The last time around 5:30am I made sure I puked until my stomach was completely empty. When morning came I still felt ill and very unrested. I finally forced myself up at 10:00. For most of the day I felt groggy but I did manage to keep down a poptart at around 2:00. I just kept hiking until 8:00pm and I just set up my tent off the side of the trail. I don't feel like dealing with fees. Oh, by the way, my tent pole broke this morning, just not a lucky day I guess. Thank god for duck tape. I'm up on top of a mountain tonight and its windy and cold. But I did manage to eat noodles and I think I'm feeling better.

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Wednesday June 19

Days On Trail: 95
Appalachian Trail Miles Hiked: 18.3
Miles from Springer Mountain: 1830
Stayed at Mizpah Hut

I woke up and felt much better this morning. Of course I hadn't eaten anything yet, stay tuned. I barely ate or drank a thing and my morning hiking went very well. I did 12 miles by 1:00! At about then I stopped for lunch. All I had for lunch was a few snacks and a quart of gatorade. I was thinking it would be a big day but thats when I started up Mt. Webster and my stomach just wasn't liking the gatorade. I got queezy and dizzy and felt very sick again. I stopped a ton of times to just sit and try to feel better. One time I even layed down on a ridge and groaned in pain. Needless to say my big mileage day was ruined as it took me 6 hours to climb Mt. Webster when I should've taken only one. As I sat atop Mt. Webster gazing out into a beautiful day, I started feeling better. Even though I was sick, I was still glad that it was a clear sunny day becaues as I lay in the fetal position on the side of a cliff, at least I had great views of the surrounding peaks. As I said, I started feeling better around 6:30 and decided to make a go at Milpah Hut. I cranked out the 3+ miles and the crew at the hut let me do a work for stay. Basically they had no work for me to do so I'm just staying for free. People normally pay like $20/night. They also fed me pea soup and ham. I was happy to keep it all down and not get sick. Now I'm in a bunk way up in the attic but I'm happy to be here. Tomorrow Mt. Washington!

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Thursday June 20

Days On Trail: 96
Appalachian Trail Miles Hiked: 14.7
Miles from Springer Mountain: 1844.7
Stayed at (Tented at Osgood Campsite)

I woke up early and had to wait until regular b'fast was over so I could eat with the crew. While I waited they put me to work scraping the frost off the freezer. I ate pancakes, oatmeal and bacon for b'fast. I figure I'll take the same approach to a hurting stomach as I do to my leg injuries while hiking. I hike through my leg injuries, so I'll eat through my stomach problems. I felt fine hiking this morning byt only until I drank some water, then I got an acidy feeling and almost nausea. It was a beautiful day, perfect for summiting Mt. Washington. The 6 mile ridge walk before and the 6 miles after Washington were breathtaking. By far today's hiking was my favorite so far. I stopped at the top of Washington and boy were there a lot of people. Most took the cog railway up. I had a great lunch in the cafeteria even though it wasn't cheap. I hiked down off the ridge tonight and am staying at a campsite. Not a great mileage day, but it was tough hiking on rocks all day and there were certain parts where I just had to take my time. I'm hoping for a super early start tomorrow.

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Friday June 21

Days On Trail: 97
Appalachian Trail Miles Hiked: 17.1
Miles from Springer Mountain: 1861.8
Stayed at Imp Shelter

Today I woke up super early at 5am and was on the trail by 5:30. I had a super big day planned out in my head. At 8am I came to Pinkmans notch and there was a place where I got breakfast. Once again, after I put food in my stomach and started hiking bad things happened. As I started hiking up the next Mtn. I got sick and decorated the trail in 3 different spots with my breakfast. Basically I only hiked 2 miles from 8am until 4pm. A day with so much potential ruined. I did manage to feel better and crank out some good mileage in the late afternoon. I'm here tonight at Imp campground and it's a full house. I'm out on the porch of the shelter and I hope it doesn't rain. It's 8 bucks to stay here but I did a work for stay and replanted a tree in a key spot. I seem to be holding down dinner fine, I guess it's a hiking thing. I'm 8 miles from Gorham so I need to wake early and get to the P.O. by noon!

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Saturday June 22

Days On Trail: 98
Appalachian Trail Miles Hiked: 19.5
Miles from Springer Mountain: 1881.3
Stayed at Gentian Pond Shelter

My earliest day yet, 4:40. I was up at first light and had an early 8 miles to the road where I caught a hitch relatively quickly into Gorham. I picked up my food drop and it was heavy, for 8 days, but Mom did a good job putting in extra snacks. I bought a Ben & Jerry's for breakfast and then called home. I made plans to meet my brother Mathew in a week at Caratunk. He's going to join me for my last week on the trail through the 100 mile wilderness to Kathadin. It will be nice having him out here with me, I just hope he can to the mileage OK. I got out of town pretty quickly and hit the trail. My pack was pretty heavy but I was happy that I wasn't puking. I hiked another 11 miles to this shelter. I thought about pushing on 5 miles to the next shelter but I figured getting done early would be a pleasant change of pace.

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Sunday June 23

Days On Trail: 99
Appalachian Trail Miles Hiked: 19.5
Miles from Springer Mountain: 1896.7
Stayed at Speck Pond Shelter

Today I woke up by 5, ate breakfast and fell back asleep. I finally hit the trail at 7:30 and it was a wet rainy day. The morning hiking went OK but then in the afternoon I had to hike through the Infamous Mahoosuc Notch. It's a mile long boulder field with caves and snow that makes for the hardest mile on the trail by far. It took me all afternoon and kicked my butt. Luckily a guy named Blue Jay wound up hiking through this part of the trail with me. It was good to have company while manuvering around this boulder field. I got to this shelter just before dark and just before it started to pour. Blue Jay came in right behind me, soaking wet. I used the radio that Mom sent while hiking and it worked pretty well.

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Monday June 24

Days On Trail: 100
Appalachian Trail Miles Hiked: 20.9
Miles from Springer Mountain: 1917.6
Stayed at Hall Mtn. Shelter

Today I woke up to a clear, cool, breezy day. I managed to avoid paying to stay at the shelter and headed out about 8:30. Today's hiking was much easier than the past week has been. When I got to the top of Bald Plate Mountain it was so windy I thought I'd get blown off the mountain. I moved pretty quickly to get to this shelter before dark and barely did just that. There are 4 other south bounders in the shelter right now and some other guy is snoring like a champ right next to me. The I realized that my boots are falling apart. The toes are worn down and when I step in water my socks instantly get wet. Also, since most of the support is work away my toes are starting to get chewed up too. I wonder if they'll last to the end?!? 100 miles left until Caratunk and only 4 days, I sure hope I make it!!!

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Tuesday June 25

Days On Trail: 101
Appalachian Trail Miles Hiked: 21.1
Miles from Springer Mountain: 1938.7
Stayed at Sabbath Day Shelter

My boots are dying and today my feet took a pounding. The tops of all my toes are all red and puss ridden. They are nearly bleeding. I have no idea how I'm going to walk on them the next few days. 3 days, 77 miles. I'm in trouble! The mosquitoes & black flees are awful in Maine.

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Wednesday June 26

Days On Trail: 102
Appalachian Trail Miles Hiked: 20.1
Miles from Springer Mountain: 1958.8
Stayed at Poplar Ridge Shelter

Today I had grand plans to go 28 miles but sore feet, big mountains, and a 6:00 thunderstorm sent me running to this shelter. I have 59 miles left to do by Friday night and it's looking near impossible. I'll wake up early and hike as fast as I can and see where I end up. I guess two 30 mile days isn't impossible. I did see my first moose today. It was exciting, those things are so big! It saw me and crashed off through the woods like an automobile.

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Thursday June 27

Days On Trail: 103
Appalachian Trail Miles Hiked: 26.6
Miles from Springer Mountain: 1985.4
Stayed at Horns Pond

Well, a marathon day, but not nearly as far as I wanted to go. I'm still 31 miles from Caratunk and I have no clue how I'm going to make it. To make matters worse there is a river before the road that can only be crossed by ferry from 9-11 am. I'm in trouble!

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Friday June 28

Days On Trail: 104
Appalachian Trail Miles Hiked: 30.6
Miles from Springer Mountain: 2016
Stayed at The Inn By The River in Caratunk

It was a long day but I did it. I made it to Caratunk! I woke up at 4:30 am and hauled butt all day on bad wheels. My feet really got beat up today. Luckily I was able to stop at Harrison camp and call for a river crossing. At the road I met mom, Mathew and to my surprise, Nana. We got pizza and went to the Inn. I showered and ate and I'm thankful to be here clean & dry and surrounded by family.

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Saturday June 29

Days On Trail: 105
Appalachian Trail Miles Hiked: 15.6
Miles from Springer Mountain: 2031.6
Stayed at: Bald Mountain Brook Shelter

We all woke up today around 7am and went downstairs for a good breakfast. Me and the Muss took our time packing up and then we headed for the trail. On the way we stopped at the post office where I picked up a package from Reina, which was very nice of her. I deceided to send home my boots because they were basically falling apart. I'm wearing Mathews sneakers now. I was skeptical at first but as the day wore on I got used to them and my feet felt much better today. We got a late start and hit the trail at 11am. We knocked out 15 miles and Mathew did very well but was certainly very tired at the end of the day. It should be a toughtask to get to Kathadin on Thursday. I'll have my difficulties, I have no clue how Mathew will do it. We'll find a way. I also sent home my water purifier. I've pretty much been drinking right from the springs and streams since the smokies anyway. I figure that drinking Bloomingdale tap water while growing up has conditioned my stomach just fine.

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Sunday June 30

Days On Trail: 106
Appalachian Trail Miles Hiked: 13
Miles from Springer Mountain: 2044.6
Stayed at: Horseshoe Canyon Shelter

The plan was to wake up early but instead we woke up at 7:30, ate bfast, and packed up. We hit the trail a little after 8 and started by hiking straight up a mountain. We hikied pretty fast all day but we kept on stopping for one reason or another. It was an enjoyable thirteen mile day. We even had to take our boots off to ford a river. We got to the lean-to at 5:15 and Mathew didn't have the energy to go any further, so we called it an early day. I got water, Mathew built a fire, we set up camp and cooked dinner. Now we're both just hanging out enjoying each others company because we've both agreed that it will take me many more days to get to katahdin with Mathew then without. So, our solution will hopefully be to hike into Monson tomorrow and leave the muss at a hostel there for three days while I book it to Katahdin. Then when Andy comes to pick me up he can get Mathew on the way up. It seems a shame to leave Mat like that but he isn't doing very well physically hiking and this seems like the best solution. Now, to enjoy our last night out here together.

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Monday July 1

Days On Trail: 107
Appalachian Trail Miles Hiked: 19.4
Miles from Springer Mountain: 2064
Miles from Katahdin: 104.1
Stayed at: Tented at Wilson Valley Shelter

Mathew and I woke up at 7am and ate Breakfast. Last night was hot and buggy and a pretty wicked thunderstorm blew through too. We hiked the six miles to the road by 11. There was yet another stream crossing where we had to take our shoes off. After the road was a two mile road walk to town. We went to a hostel run by an older woman referred to as the pie lady. Mathew would be staying three days until Andy picks him up on his way to Katahdin. I splurged and paid an extra 5 bucks per night so that Mats room had a TV in it. I figured he'd be bored out of his mind otherwise. I think He'll be just fine there for a few days. I got a ride back to the trail at 3:45 and tore off 14 miles, the last two which I did in the dark. AS luck would have it, the shelter is full so i set up my tent and snapped another pole. The tent barely stands now. I sure hope it doesn't rain tonight. At the end of my hike I had to ford another river and I missed having Mathew there with me. 99 miles in days. Ahhhhh!!!

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Tuesday July 2

Days On Trail: 108
Appalachian Trail Miles Hiked: 25.5
Miles from Springer Mountain: 2089.5
Miles from Katahdin: 78.6
Stayed at: Carl A. Newhall Shelter

I heard thunder rolling in at 5:30am and got up and took down my tent and packed up just before the rain let loose. I was on the trail a little after six. Hiking was slow over barren mtn. and I had to really move the last 9 miles to get here before dark. Luckily there is room in the shelter so i wont have to jimmy-rig my tent. Today really kicked my butt. Most likely because it was so hot + humid. 73.4 miles to do in 2 days, what in the world am I thinking???

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Wednesday July 3

Days On Trail: 109
Appalachian Trail Miles Hiked: 30.8
Miles from Springer Mountain: 2118.3
Miles from Katahdin: 47.8
Stayed at: Tented at Lower Jo-Mary Lake

Got a late jump on things today. Started hiking up white cap at 8am. It was a long hot slow climb and mileage went slowly. The afternoon flattened out and i made good time. I night hiked for a couple hours until I got sick of it and pitched my tent. I'm tenting here on a sand beach on the side of a lake and the stars and heat lightning are amazing!

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Thursday July 4

Days On Trail: 110
Appalachian Trail Miles Hiked: 44.6
Miles from Springer Mountain: 2162.9
Miles from Katahdin: 5.2
Stayed at: Didn't sleep

Well, I saved my biggest day for my last day. Insanity, thats the only word to describe what I did today. How does one hike 44.6 miles in a day you might be wondering. Simple, start hiking at 5am and dont stop until 27 hours later. I was utterly exhausted when I arrived at Katahdin stream campground at 8am. But my spirits were lifted upon seeing everyone that came to greet me. My Aunt Carmen, Andy, Mathew, Crock, Ana, Cristina and her boyfriend Mike were all there to feed and congratulate me. I did see abotu 15 moose today though which was really amazing.

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Friday July 5

Days On Trail: 111
Appalachian Trail Miles Hiked: 5.2
Miles from Springer Mountain: 2168.1
Miles from Katahdin: 0
Stayed at: Drove Home

We began the assent at 9:40. Carmen made it about a mile and Crock and Mat made it about half way. Andy, Ana, Cristina and Mike made it to the summit with me. It was freezing cold, rainy, windy and viewless for the last two miles to the summit above the treeline. Katahdin proved to be a very tough climb especially in such dismal conditions. I'm proud of everyone who climbed up with me as it was not in any way an easy task. Reaching the sign at the summit was an exhilarating experience and as I approached tears came to my eyes but when I reached the top all emotion turned to joy as I let out the loudest yell of triumph I could muster. I had done it. I knew I would, but now It was all over, I reached the end of the trail and had thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail. I waited for my siblings to reach the summit and snapped a few pictures in the driving rain. We spent only a couple of minutes on the summit because it was so cold and wet and we were all starting to get quite cold especially me. It was a really tough 2 1/2 miles back down to the tree line with wet rocks and slippery conditions. Nevermind the fact that I was shivering and near hypothermic and didn't have much feeling in my hands. Who would have thought I'd be freezing in July?!? Katahdin is no joke! We did all manage to make it down the mountain safely though which i'm happy about. We all changed out of our wet clothes, packed up the cars and headed out. I deceided that we'd eat dinner on the way out in the first town we got to, Milinocket. We went to McDonalds and for the first time in almost four months I ate McDonalds, and boy did I eat a lot. I hit that dollar menu pretty hard. Afterwards we stared the long 10 hour drive home and wound up getting home at 6am. What a last day! I DID IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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Post Hike Message

Now that my thru-hike is over, I can sit back and reflect on the past four months. Wow, what an incredible ride! I never dreamed when I set out that hiking the entire Appalachian Trail would be so grand an undertaking and at the same time such a difficult challenge. Just being out in nature for such a long period of time away from civilization took a lot of getting used to. Granted, I did pop into towns and enjoy many modern conveniences from time to time, but going even a week in the wilderness made me acutely aware of how different it is to be totally withdrawn from society. Left behind are all the problems and annoyances of the real world. No telemarketers, no insurance, no television adds, no traffic. The only things that I had to worry about on the trail were; where is the next stream where I can get water, How far till my next food drop and how far to the next shelter. I was reduced to only worrying and caring about my basic necessities to stay alive which, as it turns out, was a very refreshing way to live for a few months. By the same token, while out in the woods I didn't have access to most of the modern conveniences that I was accustomed to in the "real" world. No showers, no car, no radio, no TV, no microwave, no refrigerator, no bed, no roof over my head, no telephone, no ice cubes. I could go on and on.

Many people have asked me lately, what did you learn from being out on the trail? I'm sure that all of the ways in which I've grown as a person while hiking are not tangible. I may not even realize half the things I've learned along the way and won't realize them until a situation in my life arises where somehow I will be helped by the experiences that I had while on the trail. I do know that I have grown to better appreciate the paradise in which we all live in on a day to day basis without even realizing it. Everything in this modern world has been made so easy for us. I will no longer take showering every day for granted, nor will I take walking to my refrigerator for food, turning on the faucet for water, turning a thermostat to get warm or having the supermarket full of all the foods imaginable a 2 minute car ride away for granted. No, all these things which I before took for granted, I will never look at quite the same way again.

Another thing I've learned is this, after completing a 3 1/2 month thru hike of the AT with all of its challenges and obstacles, nothing else I attempt in life will seem all that difficult. I can't imagine anything seeming to hard or too big or difficult for me to accomplish after finishing my thru-hike.

I have also discovered some qualities in myself along the way. In completing this hike I proved to myself that I could commit to something and follow through with it, to the bitter end. And in the process, complete the hike with a dedication that I did not know I had in me. It's a wholly gratifying feeling to commit to something so large and then be dedicated enough to stick with it to the end regardless of the many obstacles along the way. This wasn't something I had to do, it's something I chose to do and stuck with it until the end.

Thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail was one of the most challenging things I've ever done. I learned to push myself to my limits and often times beyond my limits. And by this I mean both physically and mentally. I can remember sitting in a lean-to, utterly exhausted and trying to conceive of a possible way that I could hike 77 miles in two days. It seemed impossible to me, but somewhere in the back of my mind, I knew I could do it; somehow, I could do it. Even if it were 100 miles, I knew that after all I had been through, there was a way. And then physically carrying out this plan was perhaps the biggest physical challenge of my life. Accomplishing tasks like this have certainly helped me to realize that there are a lot of things that may seem impossible in life but in reality we are all capable of so much more than we give ourselves credit for.

Finally, I hope that I can serve as a good example for everyone that has followed my journey along the way. We all have dreams; Thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail has always been a dream of mine. There was always a reason why I never hiked the AT before, whether it is a job, debt, school or whatever. I hit a point though where I just decided to put some things, which were indeed important to me and the direction of where I would like my life to go, on hold and follow my dream of hiking the AT. I really do hope that seeing me chase my dreams can influence some of you to sit back and re-evaluate your own lives. Take a look at some of your dreams and make some room in your busy lives to make your dreams come true, because let me tell you, once you can accomplish that goal and make your dream come true, there's no feeling like it in the world.


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