Appalachian Trail 2012

The Appalachian Trail is a 2,185 mile long footpath through the Appalachian Mountain Range on North America’s Eastern Seaboard. The trail extends from the summit of Springer Mountain in Georgia through 14 states to the summit Mt.Katahdin in Maine. In 2012 I through hiked the Appalachian Trail documenting my journey along the way.

** Please be patient as the gallery loads below. This is the full photo project, trail journal. All photos are available in high resolution, if interested please contact me at jdwfoto1@gmail.com  Thank you, Enjoy! **

Day 1
A tough day on the approach trail. I was dropped off at Amicalola Falls State Park in GA by my parents around 11am. Right off the bat I struggled with the mile hike straight up the falls on metal stairs. The rest of the 8 mile trail was just as hard with a steady up hill 2000 elevation change. I finally reached Black Gap shelter before dark. the campers at the shelter were very nice and that boosted my moral back up again. Met thru hiker Candace.

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Day 2
Crazy storm rolled in over night with high wind and down pour. Woke up freezing. Hiked up to the summit of Springer Mountain the beginning of the Appalachian Trail. Sitting at the top was Springer Mountain Caretaker Jonathan who help me greatly with adjusting my pack to make it more comfortable. I also met another thru hike named “Bryguy75” who hiked the trail while he was 15 in 1975. I hiked down Springer to Stover Creek Shelter for lunch and met up with “Coffee pot” his dog Scout and Shaun.
I camped with them at a beautiful spot with a stream right before Three Forks.

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Springer Mountain Caretaker Jonathan.

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Bryguy75 with his old map he used on a thru hike in 1975.

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Stover Creek Shelter.

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Shaun and Coffee Pot

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Coffee Pot near the fire.

Day 3
Hiked to Hawk Mountain Shelter and took it easy. A guy who passed me blurted out “The turtle wins this race.” and now that is my slogan.

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Three Forks

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Hawk Mountain Shelter

Day 4
Cold night. Woke up early and hiked to Gooch Mountain Shelter. During the hike up Sassafras Mountain I met up with a group of three thru hiker Diesel, Montana and Chef Brodi.

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Montana, Chef Brodi and Diesel

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Chef Brodi

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Day 5
Woke up to a cold rainy day. Hiked to Woods Hole Shelter.

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Day 6
Woke up freezing and hiked up Blood Mountain. Hiked the steep rocky trail with thru hiker Nina and mjade it to Neels Gap Mountain Crossing around 3pm. Staying in an awesome cabin at Blood Mountain Cabins with a thru hike named Duffer.

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Candace hiking up Blood Mountain.

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Section Hiker Spencer, he is hiking south from the Smokies to Springer Mountain.

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Blood Mountain Shelter, the oldest shelter on the A.T, it was built by the CCC.

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Thru hiker Nina

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Wrong Way from Bristol, England.

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Mountain Crossings at Neels Gap.

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Day 7
Woke up at the Blood Mountain Cabins, with freshly cleaned clothes. George the owner graciously washed my dirty, smelly hiking clothes. I’ve heard the term Trail Angel thrown around a bunch and George from the Blood Mountain Cabins is defiantly one. I recommend to anyone in the area to stay there. Other Trail Angels I’ve encountered are Duffer who offered me a stop at the cabin and also gave me back my share of the payment. I really appreciate the the generosity! A couple days before a car that pulled up right after a hard climb up and down Sassafras Mountain, and they gave us a full gallon of homemade sweat tea, it was awesome. Trail Angels are people who go out of their way to help hikers. These Trail Angels sometimes seem like real angels when the help is truly needed.
Hike 11 tough miles to Low Gap Shelter. It was hot and sunny, I was sweating a ton and we were 7 mile till water. Wildcat Mountain kicked my ass, but met up with a group of hikers I met a day before a pushed on 4 miles to the shelter.

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View from my window at Blood Mountain Cabins.

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I stayed at Raccoon Cabin, I hade no clue Raccoons were from the Panda family.

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George from Blood Mountain Cabins.

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Thru hiker Gus.

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Me at Neel Gap Mountain Crossings, the only time the trail runs through a building.

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Wolf at Cowrock Mountain.

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Tim “Took-a-Look”, and Conan at Tesnatee Gap resting.

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Skeleton resting after a tough climb up Wildcat Mountain.

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Diesel on the way to Low Gap Shelter.

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Day 8
Woke up good around 9am at Low Gap Shelter. Hiked 9.6 miles to Unicoi Gap with Chef, Montana (“Big Sky”), Diesel, Wolf and Tim “Took-a-look”. Another Trail Angel named Jon offered us a ride down to Helen, GA, he made two trips up and down 15 miles to get all of us and would not accept any compensation. I have a huge blister on my heel I’m nursing and sharing a hotel room with Wolf at the Super 8. Helen is a cool little tourist town modeled after Alpine Village in Germany.

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Waking up at Low Gap.

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Diesel

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Wolf drinking fresh water run off.

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S.O.S and Jon hiking down to Unicoi Gap.

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Jon who gave us a ride to Helen, GA.

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Heel blister

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Helen, Ga

Up and down, up and down. Physically it is very challenging, but mentally it is the hardest thing I’ve ever encountered. My attitude follows the up and downs of the mountains. Sometimes I’m up elated high to the point of ecstasy and tears, the next moment i’m stuck in my head, all insecurities and self doubts come to life. I was at one of my lowest points after leaving Helen, GA. I was climbing from Indian Grave Gap to Tray Mountain and was really down, low energy and depressed. Struggling through the depression and thunderstorms I made it up to Tray Gap which is right before the steep climb up Tray Mountain and heard “Hey we have a Hamburger for you!”, it was Trail Angels Bill and Jeff. They do a cookout at Tray Gap yearly to feed hikers before their climb up Tray Mountain. I ate 2 huge 10ozish burgers,drank a Mountain Dew and ate some chocolate. Their generosity made me tear up, my mood shifted as quick as the weather. I hiked on to Sassafras Gap campsite to spend the night.

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Wolf singing “Freebird” at a karaoke night at the Hayloft Bar in Helen, GA. A drunk local got offended by his mashup of the southern anthem and offered him $20 to stop singing, Wolf turned down the money and the local put up a hussy fit and stormed out of the bar.

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Montana “Big Sky” in Helen, GA.

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Trail Angel Mr. Fordham gave us a ride back up to the trail from Helen, GA.

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Trail Angels Bill and Jeff set up at Tray Gap. They were cooking hamburgers for hungry hikers.

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Albert and Champ (dog)

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Tim “Took a Look”

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Montana “Big Sky”

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Uni Zoom at Sassafras Gap campsite.

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Uni Zoom trying to hang her bear bag.

Woke up after a rainy night and pushed on. Kelly Knob was a difficult climb. I made it down to Dicks Creek Gap and there was “Trail Magic” Peak Seeker was set up at the picnic area and cooking hikers hotdogs and hamburgers! Tim ” Took a Look” s wife Tina drove up and met us with their new Ford F150 and gave 8 hikers a ride down to Hiawasse, GA. I got a room at the Holiday Inn Express with Diesel, Montana “Big Sky”‘ and Chef. There’s a hot tub and continental breakfast!

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Rat Bucket before Kelly Knob. His name comes from the day he woke up and found a rat in his water bucket.

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Big Sky after a tough, rainy climb up Kelly Knob.

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Gran Bob taking a break.

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Peak Seeker providing trail magic.

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Enjoying food, drinks and candy bars provided by Peak Seeker

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Tim Took a Looks wife Tina met up with us and gave 8 hikers a ride down to Hiawasse, Ga.

I took a zero day in Hiawasse, GA at the Holiday Inn. The next day I caught a shuttle back up to to the trail at Dicks Creek Gap and hiked 11 miles to Bly Gap, crossing the GA border into North Carolina. It was very hot and I could not drink enough water. It felt awesome making it out of the first state, only eleven more to go! Georgia was no picnic though. I heard it is the third toughest state the trail runs through, New Hampshire being the toughest and Maine the second.

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Chef on the couch after raiding the continental breakfast at the Holiday Inn in Hiawasse, GA.

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Alli getting back on the trail after a stay in Hiawasse.

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Bill who gave me a back to the trail.

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Gus

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Slim and Easy Does It

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zhivago

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Georgia, North Carolina border.

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Me at the GA/NC border

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Bly Gap

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Bly Gap

Woke up and hiked 12.1 miles to Beech Gap. I’ve been hearing owls every night, seems almost like they are following me.The day seemed like a constant up hill. Courthouse bald first thing in the morning to Standing Indian at the end of the day. I was exhausted and low on water by the time I reached the campsite.

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Codger a section hiker who is a biology professor at University of Illinois Chicago.

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Bahala Na- Whatever may come. He is a cancer survivor.

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Muskrat Shelter, with a piece of the airplane that crashed in the mountains a few years ago.

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I hiked the 15 miles from Beech Gap to Rock Gap Shelter the longest daily milage walked so far. There was a very steep mid day climb up Albert Mountain, this was the first rocky, near vertical climb. Made it to Rock Gap Shelter around 7pm, there was a tent city set up at the campsite.

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Trey a member of Nathalala hiking club doing trail maintenance.

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Chef resting by a creek.

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Climbing Albert Mountain, the first real rocky, near 75 degree climb.

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The view was a great reward at the top of Albert Mountain. The summit of Albert also marked 100 miles on the Appalachian Trail, at that point I hiked 108.8 miles counting the approach trail. It was a good feeling but also the reality hit that there is still 2,080 more miles to go.

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Joe atop Albert Mountain.

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Big Spring Shelter.

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The trail turned into a creek for about 200 yards.

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Tent city at Rock Gap Shelter campsite.

Taking a zero day in Franklin, NC. Macon County Commissioner Ron Haven picked up a group of hikers at Rock Gap with his shuttle bus. Haven owns two motels in Franklin that cater to hikers and he also shuttles hikers around the town to stop at the local outfitters, to go grocery shopping and eat at the restaurants, 7 days a week for free. Haven is Awesome!

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Hikers waiting for the shuttle to Franklin, NC at Rock Gap.

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Ron Haven’s hiker shuttle arrives at Rock Gap.

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Macon County Commissioner Ron Havens greets hiker as they board his shuttle bus.

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Havens works all day, 7 days a week shuttling hikers all over the Franklin, NC area for free. He also owns motels in the area that cater to hikers.

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I have been on the Appalachian Trail for two weeks now, the mountains are kicking my butt, I’m filthy, my stink is horrendous and total exhaustion is how my days finish, but I’m learning constantly, the scenery is beautiful, the people are great and my spirits are up. One step at a time.

JDW- “J Dub”

I took a zero day in Franklin, NC, to avoid a storm front. The Sapphire Inn was quickly filling up with hikers. Did a Resupply at dollar general. One thing I picked up was more ibuprofen which is referred to as “vitamin I” on the trail. Most of the thru hikers I’ve met eat “vitamin I” like it’s candy, to mask all the aches and pains and reduce inflammation. I’ve never been a fan of pain killers but “vitamin I” works magic out here.

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Turtle at Sapphire Inn in Franklin, NC

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Diesel resting outside Outdoor 76, in Franklin, NC.

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Montana and Diesel posing with hiker painting on a trash can in Franklin, NC.

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Hikers hang their wet tents to dry at Saphire Inn in Franklin, NC.

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Resupply from The Dollar General, lots of junk food for the high calories and fat.

Got a ride back up to the trail at Rock Gap . Hiked 7.3 miles to Siler Bald Shelter. Stopped early to avoid a storm. This was the first shelter that I slept in, because it was freezing out and a chance of a severe thunderstorm. I hardly got any sleep, eight people were crammed into the shelter like sardines and there was very loud snoring.

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Sometimes the A.T. crosses highways and roads.

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Bigfoot sightings near Siler Bald Shelter.

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Food bag at Siler Bald Shelter.

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Siler Bald Shelter

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Montana “Big Sky”

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Siler Bald Shelter

Woke up to a cold, windy and rainy morning. Hiked 12 miles to Cold Springs Shelter. It was a gloomy kind of day. The hike up to Wayah Bald was long and grueling, it was one of the times the trail seemed to go on forever. The view from the top was amazing, but I was soaked with sweat and freezing from the cold wind blowing on top of the bald. I was exhausted and cold all day, by the time I reached the shelter I was ready to crash. It was a cold night and again I decided to stay in the shelter and again didn’t get much sleep.

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Tortoise and Hare

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Siler Bald Shelter.

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Chef, Diesel, Big Sky on Siler Bald.

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Papa Hix, he is panning the creeks for gold and gems.

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Wayah Bald tower.

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Me on Wayah Bald.

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Sticks on Wayah Bald.

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Land, he is hiking the Eastern Continental Trail which goes from Key West, Florida through Alabama, connect to the At in Georgia and continues up to Belle Island, Newfoundland, about 5,400 miles. He is averaging about 20 miles a day, and is a very humble man.

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Cold Springs Shelter.

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Woke up and went up to the ridge to watch the sun rise. It was awesome but cold. Hiked 12 miles to Nantahala Outdoor Center. It was a steep rocky down hill hike for most of the day dropping 2,881 feet in 8 miles. At N.O.C. my friend Scott Duncan and his wife Ann generously came by and brought Diesel, Montana, Chef and I back to there place to shower,eat, resupply and spend the night at their awesome place in Andrews, NC.

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Sunrise on the ridge near Cold Springs Shelter.

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Ray from Germany. This is his second time in America, during his first visit he cycled from San Fransico to New York.

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View from Wesser Bald observation tower.

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View from Wesser Bald observation tower.

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“Big Sky”

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Spring!

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Four crammed in the back seat of a Subaru going to Scott and Ann’s place.

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My friends Scott and Ann Duncan.

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My friends Scott and Ann Duncan.

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Looking over a map of The Great Smoky Mountain National Park, which the trail runs through soon.

Had a nice night out at the Duncans in Andrews, NC. They are Awesome and very generous! Scott Duncan brought us to Hardy’s for breakfast then dropped us off back up at the Nantahala Outdoor Center. Thank you Scott! Applesauce greeted us this morning and passed down some wisdom he learned from his thru hike in 2010 “It’s all about the smiles, not the miles”!

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Scott, Ann and Cory the dog.

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Nantahala River.

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Applesauce 2010 thru hiker from The Nantahala Outdoor Center. He shared some trail wisdom with us “It’s all about the smiles, not the miles”!

Started the climb out of N.O.C at 3pm and hiked to Sassafras Gap Shelter, climbing 2,620 feet in 6.7 miles, it was steep.

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Big Sky with a cave in the background.

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Commemorative plaque for fallen Forrest Service Ranger, who died fighting a forrest fire.

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Big Sky getting water.

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Gruffalo and Short Step from Australia.

Woke up to a steep climb up to Cheoah Bald then later in the day another brutal climb up “Jacobs Ladder”. The longest day yet, hiked total 16 miles to Cable Gap Shelter.

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Slingshot testing his aim with the slingshot he made on his trekking pole.

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Cheoah Bald

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Swamp Rat and Diesel taking a break at Brown Fork Gap Shelter.

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Swinging Jane and Spirit at Brown Gap Shelter.

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Swinging Jane and Big Sky at Brown Gap Shelter.

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Cable Gap Shelter

Hiked 5.5 miles to Fontana Village and taking a “nero” (near zero)day. It was a few hills to a steep decent down to Fontana Dam and caught a shuttle into the village. Resting before a steep accent tomorrow into the highest elevation levels on the trail, the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. From down here in Fontana Village the smokies look like monster mountains poking up noticeably higher than the other “hills”.

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Diesel drinking a coke from the soda machine at Fontana Crossing. Soda after the climb down to Fontana was the an awesome little pleasure.

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Checking out at Fontana Village General Store.

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DK, Mountain Sheep and Ducky outside Fontana Village General Store.

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Ducky and Mountain Sheep.

Bam Bam Boom Welcome to the Smokies
Caught a shuttle from Fontana Village back to the trail around 10am. The day started off warm and sunny. The trail crosses the TVA Fontana Dam, then climbs straight up into The Great Smoky Mountain National Park. The elevation changed 1,980 feet in 5 miles. Right when the trail started to reach ridge line the weather changed from hot and sunny to cold, rainy and a thunderstorm rolled in. Walking some of the highest peaks in the Appalachian Mountains during a thunderstorm is a nerve jumping experience. The storm passed but it rained hard the rest of the day, soaking every inch of clothing, boots and pack. Had to set up camp after 7 grueling, wet miles at Birch Spring Gap to get out of the rain early. Welcome to The Smokies! The mountains are awake and alive with spring fever and gave a warning display today saying “we are extremely beautiful but we are not easy and we will kick your ass if you don’t respect us.”

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The A.T. crosses over the Fontana Dam to the southwest entrance to The Great Smoky Mountain National Park.

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Roadside and Cowtail.

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Diesel and Roadside.

I woke up in a bad mood. Nothing cheers the spirit like putting on cold, damp socks and slipping into soggy boots. The morning was foggy and a little damp but very pretty in a surreal kinda way. The spring flowers blanketed the forrest floor for miles and the sun was slowly starting to burn through the fog, changing the light constantly. I sloshed up 5 miles to Mollies Ridge Shelter, then continued on to Russell Field Shelter only 3 miles away. The shelters in The Great Smoky National Park are a lot bigger nicer than the ones previously. It is required that thru hikers stay at the shelters or the few designated campgrounds while hiking through The Smokies. The shelter was packed so I set up my tent near it.

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Putting on dirty, wet socks on a chilly morning, sucks!

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Ridge runner Carl counting how many hikers are passing through to the next shelters.

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White blaze on a rock.

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Nacho and Gun Runner

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Gq and Maxis

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Russell Field Shelter.

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Cartoon in Russell Field Shelter registry. Each shelter has a registry book for hikers to sign, usually they are riddled with poems, experiences, sketches and notes to other hikers.

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I slept in until 9ish, it was partly cloudy with temperatures mild, a great day for hiking. It was a steady uphill to Rocky Top which is my favorite mountain so far. The view was a great, mountain vistas surround every horizon as far as you can see, it’s defiantly not a “pud” (pointless up an down)! The Smokies are the most dramatic range so far, a lot of hiking on the ridge line with spectacular views. Satisfied and beat I stopped early at Derrick Knob Shelter, it was only a nine mile day. The shelter was already packed and the nice thing about ending the day a little early is you get to unwind and talk with fellow hikers. I over heard a hiker say “this shelter is like the U.N.” he was right, there were hikers from Ireland, Germany, somewhere else in Europe, and India. A ridge runner named Baloo was standing guard when I arrived, he was super cool and shared tons of funny stories and tips from his thru hike in 2006. A ridge runner is a person hired by the Appalachian Trail Conservancy to watch over, help out and make sure hikers are following the rules of the trail, as if there even is such things rules. I’ve only seen two ridge runners and both were in The Great Smoky Mountain National Park.

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Swamp Rat and Chef climbing to Rocky Top.

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Chef enjoying the view while climbing up Rocky Top.

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View from Rocky Top.

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Chef on Rocky Top.

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Stingray eating m&ms on Rocky Top.

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Retired LA State Trooper Swamp Rat.

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Rock engravings on Thunderhead Mountain from 1800’s by southern appalachian highlanders.

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View from Thunderhead Mountain.

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Ridge runner Baloo

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Spirit gathering fire wood.

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Ray

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Derrick Knob Shelter.

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Baloo telling a story at Derrick Knob Shelter.

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Chef and Spirit

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Swinging Jane and Spirit cooking dinner.

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I got a good nights sleep and did not feel like waking up early.The wind was so loud, it sounded like a train as it gushed through the mountains slowly approaching the tent. The day was another partly cloudy, great for hiking kind of day. Had a few tough climbs, while making way to Clingmans Dome, the highest peak on the Appalachian Trail with elevation of 6643 feet, it’s also the second highest peak east of the Mississippi. ( highest in the east is Mt. Mitchell which is close by in the Black Mountain Range in Western North Carolina.) Clingmans started as a gradual climb then turned rocky and steep closer to the summit. The trail goes to the observation tower, which was filled with hundreds of tourists. It was strange coming straight out of the woods to hundreds of groomed people, the smell of cleanliness, cologne and perfume was strong. I was with a group of hikers and we were getting glared at, and questioned by tons of people. I’m sure we seemed like some filthy, smelly nomads walking out of the woods like from some Mad Max movie or something to some of the tourists unfamiliar with the A.T. For the most part though people were cool and curious about our journey. We sat out trying to hitch a ride for about 45 minutes, just when it seemed like a chances for a ride were slim a family filled minivan pulled over and made room to two stinky hikers. The Novetsky’s were a super cool family on vacation, they gave Chef and I a ride down to Gatlinburg, pulling over at all the overlooks to take photos. We saw a rainbow over the mountains, it was awesome. I’m zeroing in Gatlinburg, this town is a tourist zoo.

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Baloo walking up from the water source at Derrick Knob Shelter.

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On the way to Clingmans Dome. Saw the sign for Welch Ridge Trail.

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Spirit and Swinging Jane

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Swinging Jane on Clingmans Dome observation Tower. This is her second thru hike and she is 70 years old.

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Me, Swinging Jane, and Chef on Clingmans Dome observation tower.

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Rainbow in The Smokies.

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Rainbow in The Smokies.

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The Novetsky family on vacation from MI, who kindly gave Chef and I a ride from Clingmans Dome parking lot to Gatlinburg.

I took two zero days in Gatlinburg, TN to avoid a storm. The days turned out to be beautiful. The next day I caught a shuttle with Chef and Super Wolf from the N.O.C in Gatlinburg back up to Clingmans Dome in The Great Smoky Mountain National Park. It stormed! The shuttle driver Kevins parting words were “No pain, no rain, no Maine”, we pushed through to Mt. Collins Shelter, three miles in. It rained hard all night. Hikers were rolling into the shelter all night, it was packed.

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Gatlinburg, TN

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Gatlinburg, TN

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Gatlinburg, TN

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Kevin from N.O.C

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Super Wolf walking up to Clingmans Dome.

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Rain rolling in while hiking Clingmans Dome.

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Patriot and True Blue

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Mt. Collins Shelter.

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Mt. Collins Shelter

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Mt. Collins Shelter

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Maps and Divining Rod

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Super Wolf

Woke up and hiked 7.5 miles to Icewater Springs Shelter. Crossed a popular tourist stop in The Smokies called Newfound Gap and there was trail magic. Trail angels Beth and Bernie from Florida were set up, hooking hikers up with food and sodas. The trail was filled with day hikers, when I got to the shelter I set up my tent outside and had a beautiful scenic view of the peaks on the N.C side of the National Park. The night turned cold reaching the lower 30’s.

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Muddy, wet trail.

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Muddy, wet trail

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Chef and Super Wolf

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Trail angels Beth and Bernie.

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Freedom in tent on Icewater Springs.

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Tom for now

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View of the North Carolina side of The Great Smoky Mountain National Park from my tent.

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Moon rise from Icewater Springs Shelter.

Today was the last day in The Great Smoky Mountain National Park. Hiked 18 miles to a cool campsite by a creek.

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Chef taking a snack break.

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Cosby Knob Shelter

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Trail angel Brandon hooking us up with a Easter Sunday treat, six Reese’s peanut butter eggs.

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Davenport Gap Shelter

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Croc Hunter

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Sherpa and Spools

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Woke up and hiked 1 mile into Standing Bear Farm Hostel and took a “Nero” near zero day. Standing Bear Farm Hostel was fun!

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The Pigeon River

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Sign for Standing Bear Farm Hostel

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Dogger and Chef in the kitchen at Standing Bear Farm Hostel.

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A book of photos at The Standing Bear Farm Hostel of thru hiker on the summit of Mount Katahdin the end point of the A.T. This photo is of a friend Stefan “chops” Colosimo, who I use to work with at the Mountain Xpress news paper in Asheville.

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Croc Hunter holding a bag of Larry’s Beans Coffee, who sponsored his thru hike sending him free organic ground coffee along the way.

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Kurtis the owner of Standing Bear Farm Hostel.

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Standing Bear Farm Hostel crew Pilgrim, Rocket and owner Kurtis.

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Ranger Bill.

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Emilyn and Hips.

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Double Back

Woke up tired and hiked 7 miles to Groundhog Creek Shelter. Snowbird Mountain was a tough hike but was an awesome bald with a great view. The temperature dropped low into the 20’s that night and we had an epic fire.

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Snowbird Bald

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The back of Rat Man’s hiking shirt.

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The Honeymoon Hikers- Rat Man and Tumbler, they were married on Springer Mountain Six Months ago, this is their second thru hike together.

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Spools with his hitch hiking sign.

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Epic fire at Groundhog Creek Shelter.

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I left camp 10 am which is generally a pretty late start. Hiked up to a camp site some friends were staying and Chef, Light House, Croc and I decided to push on and night hike to Hot Springs. We arrived in Hot Springs, NC around 1am, everything in the town was closed including the police station. We had to stealth camp by railroad tracks. Hiked a total of 26 miles, this was the longest day so far.

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Max Patch Bald

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Chef and Radio on Max Patch.

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Mr. Wrong

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Croc Hunter, Lighthouse, and Chef. We pushed 26 miles and night hiked until 12.30 am to make it into Hot Springs, NC.

Hot Springs is a small trail town, literally the trail runs right through the main street. I got my mail drop early and called my friend Jon Elliston up who lives in Asheville, NC. Jon generously drove an hour out of his way to Hot Springs to pick up Chef, Ranger Bill and I, to bring us to Asheville. Thank you Jon!

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Stealth camp spot in Hot Springs, NC. The railroad tracks were right up the hill maybe 20 feet away and three trains rolled through during the night waking me up each time.

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The trail runs right through Hot Springs with way markers on the sidewalk.

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Lighthouse from Scotland.

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Mail drop time

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Had a great stay in Asheville! Thank you Jon, Joe, Adam, Kutty and Jeff for the help, hospitality and trail magic!

Had an awesome three day visit with friends in Asheville, NC. My friends Jon and Jen gave Chef, Ranger Bill and I a ride back to the trail at Hot Springs, NC and also did a mile long hike up to Lovers Leap. It was tough getting back into the hiking frame of mind. Hiked a short day up to a campsite near a pond and it was very loud with the night time symphony of peepers and birds.

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Jon and Jen on Lover Leap outside of Hot Springs, NC.

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Leaf channeling water for easy water gathering.

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Ranger Bill

Woke up and hiked another short day to the next shelter. Met back up with a super cool group of female hikers Hips, Emilyn and Chameleon.

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Wounded Knee.

Hiked to Jerry Cabin Shelter, it started to rain hard and continued through the night.

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Emilyn and Hips

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Hercules and Fal who thru hiked in 1999, invited hikers into their home for waffles, stew and a choice of five desserts.

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Fal making waffles.

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Emilyn and Hips

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Hips

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Hips

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Emilyn and Hips

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Woke up and it was cold and pouring out, everything got soaking wet. It was a hard day, but I enjoyed the company of fellow hikers and pushed through my bad mood.

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Wet trail

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Hips

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Briscuit who is continuing a thru hike after his first attempt in 2010 when he blew out his knee and had to get off the trail.

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Briscuit

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Ranger Bill

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Hips on Big Bald

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Eddie from Israel with his wind up radio.

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Eddie making coffee in his huge aluminum bowl, he makes about five coffees a day.

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Hiked into Erwin, TN.

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“The only difference between an adventure and an ordeal is your attitude.” – Said Hips as we were leaving Erwin to head out into the mountains with snow in the forecast.
Left Erwin, TN on a rainy day, it was intense. Made it to Curly Maple Gap Shelter and stayed the night, it was freezing and everyone was soaked. The rain slowly turned to snow overnight.

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Emilyn and Hips organizing their resupply at Holiday Inn in Erwin, TN.

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Shuttle services by Janet.

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Hips

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Ranger Bill

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Ranger Bill with a hand full of Twizzlers.

Woke up freezing and it was still snowing out. The group I was hiking with decided to head back down to town instead of risking worse conditions or chancing hypothermia on the higher elevations. Chameleon rented a car and we went to see the movie The Lorax in Johnson City, TN.

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Snow

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Bells and his daughter Sunshine, who is 11 and is currently the youngest thru hiker of the Pacific Crest Trail on the west coast.

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Chameleon in the rental vehicle.

The next day we “slack packed” hiked 10 miles, leaving our packs in the rental car. We continued on to Cherry Gap Shelter and while climbing Unka Mountain it snowed on and off. The Forrest ground was blanketed with a couple inches of snow, it was cold but pretty. Camped at Cherry Gap Shelter. Woke up and hiked 12 miles to a campsite at the base of Roan Mountain.

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Hips

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Snack break

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The A-Team, A family of three generations thru hiking together.

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Emilyn and Hips brought s’mores to Cherry Gap Shelter to share with everyone around the fire.

Woke up and hiked 12 miles to a campsite at the base of Roan Mountain.

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Chameleon

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Hips

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Hips

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Hips

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Hips and Emilyn

Woke up and right after breaking down camp a thunderstorm rolled in with a lot of lightning and dime sized hail. It rained on and off all day. Hiked to the famous Overmountain Shelter which is an old barn used as a shelter on a historic Revolutionary War site.

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Coming down Roan Mountain the trail was a rushing creek from a the rain water.

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Hips and Ranger Bill coming down Roan Mountain, the trail was a rushing creek.

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No Tech

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Over Mountain Shelter

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Woke up and hiked the Roan Highland Balds, stopping briefly in Elk Park NC for a quick resupply. Camped on a bald just outside of town with a great view.

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Uncle Mike

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Hikers in Elk Park.

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Woke up and hiked to Moreland Gap Shelter, and crossed the 400 mile mark.

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Sunrise

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Emilyn writing in her journal.

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Hips

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Woke up and hiked to a campsite on top of Ponds Flat.

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Hiked a light day down to Watauga Lake and relaxed by the lake all day.

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Hips resting.

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Watauga Lake

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Croc Hunter with carrying an 18 pack of Coors Light from Hampton, TN.

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Hiked 21 miles to Double Springs Shelter.

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Float

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Hiked 18 miles into Damascus VA.

Damascus, VA to Atkins, VA.
Damascus, VA was a nice little trail town, my camera died right before I got into town, so unfortunately I do not have any photos of Damascus. A replacement camera was overnighted to me during my stay. I got back on the trail mid day with Hips, Emilyn and Chameleon. Hiked about 6 miles to a campsite near Laurel Creek.

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Hips, Chameleon and Emilyn. RAWR!

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It was raining on and off, I hiked about 11 miles, then got feed up with the weather and aching blisters, so I set up camp early at the base of Whitetop Mountain.

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The trail tunnels through Rhododendron frequently in Southern VA.

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Woke up and hiked up Whitetop Mountain, it was raining off and on again all day.In the afternoon I entered my favorite region so far on the trail called the Grayson Highlands. Stopped for the night at Wise Shelter which is the 500 mile mark on the Appalachian Trail.

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Buzzard Rock

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Tyvek

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Subway

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Thomas Knob Shelter

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Wild pony licking one of the Georgia Boys leg at Thomas Knob Shelter.

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Wild ponies in Grayson Highlands State Park.

Hiked 10 miles to Hurricane Shelter and chilled there to wait out the rain. Subway arrived there and was planning to night hike 19 miles to Partnership Shelter. I decided to join him, so I napped briefly and we hit the trail around 2am, making good progress at night by averaging around 3 miles per hour. We arrived at Partnership Shelter in the morning, I lounged there all day and ordered delivery pizza from the Mount Rogers Visitor Center next door.

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A group of section hikers at Old Orchard Shelter.

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Subway.

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Rambling Man at Partnership Shelter.

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Partnership Shelter is a double story shelter with a built-in shower and sink, you can also order pizza from the visitor center around the corner.

Woke up and since I planned on taking a few zero days, I said goodbye to my friend Hips who is getting off the trail in a week for grad school. I will not be able to catch up to her after taking 4 days off and I will definitely miss her company out there. I Hiked 14 miles into Atkins, VA and split a room at Relax Inn for the night with Cool Pants. The next day I went back into NC for the weekend to visit my parents.

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Cool Pants at the Shell in Atkins, VA.

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Cool Pants outside the Relax Inn.

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South bounders Hatchet, Trail Mix and their thru hiking cat Meow.

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Tripping Yeti

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Radio and Croc Hunter at Relax Inn.

Trail culture spreads way beyond the actual hikers themselves, it’s a community of people that embrace the trail lifestyle, philosophy and attitude. The Appalachian Trail is as much a social experience as it is a wilderness experience. A typical thru hike consists of spending about a half of a year, walking approximately 10-20 miles up and down mountains all day, just to reach a mountain in the middle of nowhere and receive no material reward. I think the physical demand and mental obstacles force hikers to embrace their true essence. The reward is the experience. The bonds and camaraderie between fellow hikers can be strong, very intense, and just as beautiful as the scenery around. But also very fleeting, so any amount of time spent with someone you enjoy being around is savored. It’s amazing how natural a connection can feel when societal guards are let down. Instantly like a butterfly the person disappears out of sight with the possibility of never seeing them again. The feeling is alright though because the beauty of the experience you had is always there and never changes.

Trail Days is an annual hiker festival/reunion held in Damascus, VA. Around 30 thousand hikers flock to the small mountain town to celebrate trail culture and reunite with friends from their past hikes. I was taking a zero week relaxing not sure if I was going to go to Trail Days this year. Laura “Hips” (who I said goodbye to on the trail last week, because she’s getting off for grad school) sent me a text saying her and six other hikers were going in on a vacation rental house outside of Damascus for the weekend and wanted me to join in. The thought of seeing her again was motivation enough to go and I’m glad, cause it was awesome! Two goodbyes are better than one.

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Trail legend Warren Doyle who hiked over 34,000 miles on the A.T. He was the caller for the contradance at Trail Days.

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Waltz during a contra dance break.

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Hips getting a butterfly painted on her arm.

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Hips with a painted on butterfly tattoo.

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Hips and Emilyn showing off their painted tattoos.

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Emilyn, Ranger Bill, Hips and me.

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The hiker parade: a two mile parade, local vs hiker water war.

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Emilyn and Hips with water guns.

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Tyvek

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Gus

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Croc Hunter testing the Hennessy Hammock setup.

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Ranger Bill

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Rockin D’s vacation rental, where Emilyn, Chameleon, Hips, Passion Flower, Voltron, Ranger Bill and I stayed.

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Sunday breakfast!

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Hips, Emilyn and Passion Flower.

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Hips

Atkins, VA to Bland, VA
After taking a week and a half zero, my little brother Donnie gave me a ride back to the trail in Atkins, VA. It was a late start in the afternoon and the weather turned quick so I made it about two miles in and decided to set up camp to avoid getting wet on my first day back out. I’m in a whole new bubble of hikers because of taking the time off and definitely missing Laura “Hips” who I’ve been hiking with for the past month.

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Woke up after a night of intense thunderstorms and moved on 12 miles to Knot Maul Branch Shelter.

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The trail in Virginia is filled with fence stiles hikers have to climb over to walk into different property and pastures.

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The trail runs through cow pastures a lot in Virginia.

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Woke up and hiked 19 miles to Jenkins Shelter. It was a tougher day than I imagined, Chestnut Knob was a climb! Everyone has been saying since Georgia “oh wait till Virginia, it will be flat” Virginia is definitely not flat! The terrain has been more rolling hills which is still difficult with some exhausting climbs.

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Makeshift footbridge.

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Gandalf hiking up Chestnut Knob.

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Chestnut Knob Shelter.

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Gandalf

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Woke up and hiked 12 miles to US 52 and hitched into Bland, VA with Gandalf.

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Laurel Creek.

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Gandalf.

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Gandalf with a half gallon of chocolate milk in Bland, VA.

Bland, VA to Pearisburg, VA
I’m becoming less concerned with miles and more concerned with listening to my body and intuition. The trail phrase “hike your own hike” has been my slogan lately. The freedom of stoping and relaxing by a river all day or going into town or staying at random hostels without worrying about other agendas is nice! I feel like a lot of hikers treat the trail like a race and just blow by all the beauty in order to gain miles, compete with each other and keep up with friends. Nothing is wrong with that, but I’ve also noticed hikers that take their time, fully appreciate everything they encounter and take in all the beautiful surroundings. I learn more and more each day out here and have always kinda had a philosophy in-between the mile minded and enjoyment minded and it has caused me a little stress sometimes. I respect the wisdom of the hikers that just flow up and down the trial at their own pace and always have a smile on their face, way more than the ultralight, cocky speed hikers that only talk miles, gear and calories. I’m now more devoted than ever to taking my time and fully enjoying the trail experience without the stress of a schedule or plan.
On the bridge crossing the Laurel Creek, there was a sign posted about a hostel called Fort Bastian in Bastian, VA. I called the number for the hostel and spoke to “TruBrit” who is the owner. It turns out the hostel is his Akido dojo. TruBrit picks hikers up and allows them to stay in his dojo for a five dollar charge. It was awesome the Fort Bastian Dojo had a surround sound movie theater and was right next door to an all you can eat pizza buffet. We watched three movies Wall-e, Lord of the Rings, and Planet of the Apes, and enjoyed TruBrits hospitality.

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Hikers spread out inside Fort Bastian Dojo in Bastian, VA.

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Buddha eating outside Fort Bastian Dojo.

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Watching Planet of the Apes at Fort Bastian Dojo.

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TruBrit owner of Fort Bastian Dojo.

Got back on trail around 1pm from Fort Bastian. The ridge was really hot in the mid day heat so I hiked in 7 miles in and set up camp.

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Gandalf climbing over a fallen tree that blocked the trail.

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Snack break.

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Gandalf starting a fire.

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Sunset coming through my tent.

Gandalf and I decided to night hike 14 miles to reach an Amish store called Natures Way by morning to get ice cream and Amish cheese. When we got to VA 606 the store was 5 miles down hill, so we decided to go to Trent’s Grocery only half a mile away to get breakfast and try to hitch a ride down to Natures Way. The breakfast at Trent’s was good, but none of the locals would give us a ride to the Amish store. One guy was very hateful towards the Amish, saying ” are you Amish? are you Amish, boy?…No then stay away from them!” ” they don’t pay taxes” “they have weird beliefs”…blah,blah,blah. I headed back out on trail before trouble started and chilled by a stream all day.

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Sunrise by a power line.

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Suspension bridge over Kimberling Creek.

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The stream I relaxed by all day after night hiking 14 miles.

Woke up and got a late start, hiked 12 miles to Woods Hole Hostel, described in the A.T. Guide as “a slice of heaven, not to be missed.” Woods Hole is definitely a very hospitable, great place to stop and spend the night.

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Slow Going from “New Hampshah” taking a lunch break at Wapiti Shelter.

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Random

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Lucky 10

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Me at an overlook.

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Playful dog at Woods Hole Hostel.

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Jabs resting in a hammock at Woods Hole Hostel.

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Squeeze playing with dog at Woods Hole Hostel.

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Owners Michael and Neville giving us the introduction greeting at Woods Hole.

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Woods Hole Hostel’s organic gardens.

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Woods Hole Hostel’s organic gardens

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Hikers gathering around the fire pit at Woods Hole Hostel.

Woke up and had a great breakfast at Woods Hole then hiked 10 miles into Pearisburg, VA and split a room with Poncho, Great Dane, and Jabs.

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Sunshine on the porch at Woods Hole Hostel.

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Poncho helping out serving breakfast plates. Neville made the breakfast cherry pie, peach cobbler, with yogurt, scrambled eggs with veggies and a banana it was delicious! The ingredients were fresh, organically grown at the hostel or from a local Amish farm.

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Hikers eating breakfast at Woods Hole Hostel.

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Woods Hole Hostel

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Hikers eating breakfast at Woods Hole Hostel.

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Chickens at Woods Hole Hostel.

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Rocky on the rocky trail.

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The trail from Woods Hole Hostel to Pearisburg, VA was rocky.

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Stopped at Doc Knob Shelter for lunch and water resupply.

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Falls and Poncho enjoying the power line view.

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Poncho taking a break at a power line view.

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White Blaze on power line.

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Mana, Firefox and Gypsy.

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Jabs at a overlook towards Pearisburg, VA.

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Angels Rest

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Jabs at Angels Rest.

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View of Pearisburg, VA, from Angels Rest.

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Jabs contemplating climbing the rock.

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Poncho up top, Jabs bottom.

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Rocky trail.

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Great Dane from Denmark enjoying trail magic at the end of the steep decent into Pearisburg, VA.

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Trail magic, cold sodas, apple juice and snacks left out for hikers.

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Hikers enjoying trail magic at the end of a steep climb down to Pearisburg, VA.

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Wiffle Chicken who carries a wiffle ball bat with him.

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Simple See and Thin Timber eating lunch outside of Plaza Motel in Pearisburg, VA.

Pearisburg VA to Daleville VA

I’ve been hiking solo lately and deep in thoughts sometimes good and sometimes intense. The trail has been very rocky as well, making concentration on each foot placement important. I went to a hiker feed at “The Captains” house just outside of Pearisburg. The Captain allows hikers to camp in his yard for free and throws an annual hiker feed party, two weeks after Trail Days. During the hiker feed an Eagles album was playing on the stereo. The song “Take it Easy” came on and the line ” don’t let the sound of your own wheels drive you crazy” really resonated with me. The line was stuck in my head and I repeated it over and over and over through out this section of the trail.

I started out of Pearisburg mid day after taking a zero and hitting the Hardees and Dairy Queen. Hiked about 10 miles to a campsite on the ridge.

Hiking out of Pearisburg, VA

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Rocky trail.

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MMRF who lost his father recently from Multiple Myeloma is hiking as a fundraiser for the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation. Check out his website for more information http://www.active.com/donate/2012mmrfyor/at4mm

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A white blaze

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MMRF taking a snack break at Rice Field Shelter.

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Beast Mode setting up his tarp shelter.

Woke up, hiked 12 miles to “The Captains” and spent the next two days there for his annual hiker feed, meet a whole bunch of new hikers.

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Bonobo and Groove

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Beast Mode taking the zip line across Stony Creek to “The Captains”.

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Firefox on the zip line across Stony Creek to “The Captains”.

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Stony Creek

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Hikers at “The Captains”.

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Hikers at “The Captains”.

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The Captain

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Hiker feed at “The Captains”.

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Hiker feed at “The Captains”.

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Left “The Captains” at noon and hiked 12 miles to War Spur Shelter.

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Flop, a flip flop thru hiker who is heading south to southern terminus Springer Mountain, GA from Hapers Ferry, WV the trails mid point and then he will fly to the northern terminus Mt. Katahdin in Maine and hike back to Hapers Ferry.

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Hip’s last log entry at War Spur Shelter, a haiku describing her marathon 27.4 mile hike.

Woke up feeling good from all the food I ate the previous two days at “The Captains” and hiked 18.2 miles to Niday Shelter.

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Crossed the Eastern Continental Divide.

Woke up, started to hike and I developed a sharp pain in my heel so I stopped early at Pickle Branch Shelter and rested.

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Audie Murphy Monument, Murphy was most decorated American Solider of World War II and died near this site in an airplane crash.

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Woke up, still had the heel pain and hiked to VA 624. Stopped at a convenience store to get a couple hot dogs and a hamburger. Caught a ride to the trail parking lot a couple miles before McAfee Knob and hiked to Lamberts Meadow Shelter, a 17.2 mile day.

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The rocky trail going up Dragons Tooth.

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The rocky trail going up Dragons Tooth.

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Steep climbs on Dragon Tooth. Notice the steel hand bars on the rocks.

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Steep climbs on Dragon Tooth.

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Me on McAfee Knob.

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A section hiker killed two rattle snakes and cut off their rattles.

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Hikers from Charlotte, NC doing a benefit hike for their friend who died in a car accident. Check out the website for more information www.charliesvision.com.

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Under the Tinker Cliffs

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Woke up to rain and hiked 9.2 miles to Daleville, VA. Where I meet up with my brother Donnie and his friend Travis who will join me for the rest of Virginia.

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My brother Donnie and Travis ready to hit the trail.

Daleville, VA to Buena Vista, VA
“Observe as you walk. Be aware of the history that surrounds you. Keep your eyes and mind open to explore the secrets held by the land.” – From the Brown Mountain Creek Community.

I met up with my brother Donnie “Baby Steps” and his friend Travis in Daleville. Travis hiked with us for 5 days till Glasgow, VA and then another friend of Donnie’s, Drew “Speed Bump” and his dog Bruin joined us till we reached Buena Vista, VA. Here’s a few words by “Baby Steps” about his experience.-

Looking out at the half lit motel sign as I write this it feels sort of surreal to acknowledge that I spent the past week hiking about 80miles. It’s so easy to just hop in a car and drive twenty or thirty miles without even thinking about the distance you travel, but actually walking that sort of length, and more, makes you become so aware of the amount of energy it takes to travel. When I started out on the Trail 7 days ago I had no idea what to expect, and despite the training I did beforehand I was in no way prepared for the intensity of The Trail, not just physically, but mentally an emotionally as well.I wasn’t alone though, as I was joined for the first 5 days by my friend Travis and after that by my friend Drew, later taking the name Speedbump, and his dog Bruin. Making my way from Daleville to Buena Vista I encountered the extremes of the trail, from the torrential rain and painful blister, to the magic of Trail angels and the gorgeous views of the mountains hold. I’m making my way through this journey one step at a time and working on the whole crawling before I walk thing as I carry on with J-Dub and join him for a section of his Thru Hike. Shenies or Bust! – BabySteps

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My brother Donnie “Baby Steps” and Travis next to a white blaze.

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Travis and “Baby Steps” filtering water from a stream.

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Peter Pan and Xango breaking for lunch at a Blue Ridge Parkway overlook.

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Travis on The Blue Ridge Parkway.

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Travis

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Wall off The Blue Ridge Parkway.

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Travis swimming in Jennings Creek.

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Getting a ride back to the trail from Wildwood Camp Store.

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A break from the mid day heat.

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Travis

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Donnie “Baby Steps”

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20120614-010018.jpg The Guillotine.

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Travis and Donnie ” Baby Steps”.

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Rainy morning.

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Travis and Donnie “Baby Steps” hiking on a misty morning.

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David from Northern Ireland and Lost from Germany at Matts Creek Shelter.

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Travis’s father and Travis, near the James River.

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James River footbridge

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Donnie “Baby Steps” on the James River footbridge.

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Dinosaur in Glasgow,VA.

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Donnie “Baby Steps”, his friend Drew “Speed Bump” and his dog Bruin.

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Drew “Speed Bump” and Bruin

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Drew “Speed Bump” and Bruin

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Trail Magic Judy Williams making hard boiled eggs for hikers. Her and her husband Danny have been feeding hikers for 25 years. We enjoyed a refreshing lunch stop, drinking cold sodas, ice tea, eating cheese sandwiches and hard boiled eggs.

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Buena Vista, VA to Waynesboro, VA.

Central Virginia has been tough! From now on I’m not believing anyone when they describe the upcoming trail terrain as easy and instead trusting the “wisdom behind my ears”! The long stretch of ridge line became progressively rockier and rockier with a few long climbs. My brother Donnie “Baby Steps” has been out hiking with me for last two weeks. We are taking a zero day and resting in Waynesboro VA, the southern entrance of the Shenandoah National Park. The Virginia Blues are kicking in and the green tunnel affect of the trail plus the rocky terrain are becoming monotonous day in day out. It will be nice to have a new section, The Shenandoah National Park, ahead of us to finish off the rest of Virginia. Here is a brief summary by “Baby Steps” of our hike from Buena Vista, VA to Waynesboro, VA.

It’s strange to think that I’ve now gone over 100miles on the trail with J-Dub, but there’s a lot more to come! We had a couple light days coming out of a tough 3,000ft climb from Buena Vista and even made a stop at an area hostel called The Dutch Haus where I found myself casually eating dinner in a robe, sometimes life is good. The Dutch Haus offered slack packing, or taking only a day pack and getting dropped off a certain distance ahead to hike back, and we took them up on the offer to hike about 21miles. While this took the 35lbs packs off of us and made the hike up Three Ridges a little smoother, the hike up the backside of The Priest was incredibly steep and super exhausting, especially since we hit it at about 1pm with the mid-day heat. Whoever actually thinks that Virginia is flat, I hope you enjoy the prairie land of New England because I hear that place gives Nebraska a run for it’s money. After the slack packing, and some night hiking to find a camp ground, we pushed the last 15miles into Wanyesboro the next day for a resupply and a quick break before moving on into the Shennies! – BabySteps

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Trail maintainers from the Natural Bridge Appalachian Trail Club, weed whacking overgrown brush along the trail.

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Baby Steps on Bald Knob.

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Trail maintainer from the Natural Bridge Appalachian Trail Club, weed whacking the overgrown brush along the trail.

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Trail maintainer from the Natural Bridge Appalachian Trail Club, clearing a trail through a fallen tree.

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Members of The Natural Bridge Appalachian Trail Club taking a break on a rock overlook during a day hike.

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Me and Baby Steps.

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Me taking a break on a rock with a tree. Yeah, even the trees have to deal with rocks in Virginia!

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Crasin and Baby Steps getting a ride to the Dutch Haus.

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Some hikers are jokingly known out here as hiker trash. I’m not sure how the term came about but I imagine it’s due to the dirty disheveled appearance, transient ways, dropping out of society to hike, loitering and bingeing on food and drinks in town.

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The “Bunk Haus” at the Dutch Haus.

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Baby Steps wearing a robe at dinner while his clothes were being washed.

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Baby Steps.

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Baby Steps with a slack pack. We slack packed from the Dutch Haus 21 miles.

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The Tye River

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Cripple Creek

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Cripple Creek

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Crasin and Riff Raff from Germany

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Rocky trail

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Baby Steps taking a break.

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Rocks on The Priest.

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Texas Pete and his mom Wishbone.

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Earl from the Dutch Haus

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Pork Chop

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Baby Steps in the back of Pork Chops truck, heading down to Waynesboro, VA.

Ticks, rattlesnakes, bears and wildfires.

Waynesboro, VA to Front Royal, VA.

The Shenandoah National Park was beautiful, with nice terrain and a very well maintained section of the trail. Along the way, there were waysides and camp stores to stop at and get milkshakes, food, beer and a resupply of junk food. The Skyline Drive is the parkway road traveled by park visitors. The Appalachian Trail follows The Skyline Drive but instead of going around all the mountains from overlook to overlook, the trail goes up and down the ridge line with less overlooks. One major problem encountered was the amount of ticks, I had about five or six on me each day. I hate ticks! I also saw a few rattlesnakes and my first bear sighting yet since being on the trail. On Sunday night a cold front moved through creating thunderstorm with intense lightning. The next day smoke was in the air, and from views you could see a fire in the distance. We all thought it was a controlled Forrest Service fire, but when we got into Front Royal, VA, National Park Service fire fighters were at the hotel and said there are two wildfires in the area from lightning strikes.

Here is a blurb by Baby Steps about his experience of through The Shennies-

In seven days J-Dub and I made our way through the 103 miles of The Shennandoah National Park. Between the hot meals at the waysides and the beautiful views it was a great stretch of hiking, aside from the ticks and the occasional wildfire in the distance. The weather was also awesome with the exception of a crazy thunderstorm on Sunday night that created said wildfires. The Shennies proved to be the first time I felt my hiker hunger really start to kick in and I just couldn’t seem to get enough to eat, even a giant piece of blackberry ice-cream pie couldn’t quite fill me. Now we’re in Front Royal recouping and getting ready to push on into Harper’s Ferry! -Baby Steps

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Timber Rattlesnake on the trail.

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View from Blackrock.

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Baby Steps on Blackrock.

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In the Shenandoah National Park the signs are engraved in little posts along the way.

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Flapjack climbing over a fallen tree.

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We stayed at The Country View Motel at Swift Run Gap.

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Bob owner of the Country View Motel, with his dog Shadow.

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Bear Mountain Grocery, we went their for dinner and breakfast.

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Adam Bomb with his mom and dad, who were doing trail magic giving hikers Gatorade, cookies and candy.

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Baby Steps.

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Baby Steps.

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Baby Steps climbing a rock scramble.

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Me and Baby Steps on the rock scramble.

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Flapjack on the Pinnacle.

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Baby Steps at Mary’s Rock.

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Mary’s Rock.

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Baby Steps on Mary’s Rock.

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Leaks

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Trail maintainer Tom Ryan from the Potamac Appalachian Trail Club weed whacking along the trail.

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Wildfire.

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Front Royal, VA to Harpers Ferry, WV.
During our last night in Front Royal a huge storm came through, with extreme lightning and high winds. The next day we walked through the aftermath, the trail looked like a war zone! Climbing over huge fallen trees and brush every mile we made it to Harpers Ferry, WV on July 3. Harpers Ferry is known as the mental half way point on the Appalachian Trail. We stopped in at the Appalachian Trail Conservancy and then got a ride into Washington, DC for the Fourth of July celebration. This was my first time in DC, it was fun! A lot of hikers were in town, we walked around to see all the monuments and memorials, explored the city’s July 4 celebration and I even got to drink a beer in front of the White House while watching the fireworks, it was Awesome! When we got back to Harpers Ferry my brother Donnie “Baby Steps” who has been hiking with me for a month, ended his section hike. I will miss his company! Here is a parting blurb by Baby Steps-

After a month of hiking and a total of 300 miles I’ve had to say goodbye to J-Dub and the other hikers I’ve encountered on this journey. This has quite honestly been one of the most physically, mentally, and emotionally demanding things I’ve done, ever, and it has all been so worthwhile. Spending a month on the trail has given me a glimpse into the extreme lows and highs the Trail holds, from severe thunderstorms and seemingly even more severe blisters, to the breathtaking views at the peaks of mountains and the sweet taste of trail magic, it is all part of the experience. J-Dub and I pushed our way into Harper’s Ferry, riding The Roller Coaster in a day, in order to end our trip together in Washington D.C. for the 4th of July, and I can think of no better grand finale for what has been such an incredible and intense month. To my brother and all the Thru-hiker’s I’ve had the pleasure of meeting and befriending, I can only wish you Happy Trails and the best of luck as you make your way North to take on Katahdin. – Baby Steps

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Fallen trees and debris on the trail.

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Fallen trees and debris on the trail.

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Baby Steps climbing over a fallen tree.

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Hiker resting at Jim and Molly Denton Shelter during the mid-day heat.

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Fallen trees and debris on the trail.

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Fallen trees and debris on the trail.

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Baby Steps climbing over fallen tree.

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Baby Steps climbing over fallen tree.

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Entering “The Roller Coaster”, a 13.5 mile section of steep, tightly packed accents a descents.

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Gandalf eating Sassafras leaves.

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Entering West Virginia, marking 1000 miles!

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Firefox and ogre

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Baby Steps at the first view in West Virginia.

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Ogre on the rocky trail leading to Harpers Ferry.

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Bridge over the Potomac River.

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Potomac River.

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Canon in Harpers Ferry.

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View of lobby from our room at The Westin in Washington DC.

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Ogre, Baby Steps and me in front of Washington Monument.

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Baby Steps and me at WWII Monument

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WWII Memorial.

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Korean War Memorial.

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Korean War Memorial.

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Vietnam War Memorial.

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Vietnam War Memorial.

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Baby Step sitting on Einsteins lap.

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Yellow Blazing (road walking/travel) in DC.

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The White House

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Marijuana rally outside the White House.

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Casanova, Gandolf, Ogre and Baby Steps admire white blaze found in the middle of DC.

The section from Harpers Ferry, WV to Carlisle, PA was tough on me. The terrain was very rocky but elevation wise it was much easier than anything before. What made it tough was the heat, with days reaching 104 it was very hard to move far. I kinda hit a wall physically and mentally near the trails (1058 mile) half way marker. Outside of Boiling Springs I started to feel sick and exhausted. I have been resting at the Days Inn in Carlisle, PA for 4 days.

I enjoy having a slow pace and taking breaks to rest when desired, but this has put me a little behind schedule. Baxter State Park in Maine, which is the home of MT. Katahdin the trails end point, closes for the season on October 15. I’m planning to travel up to MA, for a friends wedding on July 21, then jump back on the trail in Dalton, MA, skipping ahead about 400 miles. After I reach Katahdin, I plan to jump back on trail in Dalton, MA and hike the section I skipped, south back down to the trails mid way point in PA

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Casanova outside the Appalachian Trail Conservancy in Harpers Ferry, WV.

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Trail in Harpers Ferry, WV

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Bridge over the Potomac River.

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Ogre and Casanova leaving Harpers Ferry, WV.

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Ogre and Casanova.

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Ogre and Casanova

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Ruins of old barn in Gathland State Park.

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The War Correspondents Arch in Gathland State Park, built in 1896.

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Washington Monument, it was built in 1827 by the villagers in Boonsboro, MD as a dedication to George Washington. The monument was also used as a signal tower by Union soldiers during the Civil War.

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Sketch enjoying the view at Annapolis Rocks.

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Sketch

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Rocky trail.

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Rocky trail.

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Railroad tracks at Mason Dixon Line.

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Crossed into Yankee territory.

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Hiker feed in Caledonia State Park, PA, hosted by Cook Dr and his family. We were served free dinner and breakfast. Thanks Cook Dr!

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Half Way marker. Only 1058 miles to go!

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Boiling Springs, PA.

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Corn field in PA.

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I traveled up to Pittsfield, MA to attend my friends Jill and Josh’s wedding. I decided to jump ahead on the trail starting at Dalton, MA and head north from there. I’ll make up the section I skip after summiting Mt. Katahdin in ME.
Jill and Josh’s wedding was beautiful, couldn’t ask for a better day or location. It was a good decision to come up here, I had a great visit back to my hometown, hung out with my two grandmothers, had good talks and beer with my uncles Danny and Michael, saw friends and cousins and had a great visit with my cousin Erin, her husband Chris and their children Preston and Josephine! The time off was awesome! I’m now, sitting in Bascom Lodge on the Summit of Mt. Greylock the highest peak in MA, watching severe weather come up the mountain top.

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Newlyweds Jill and Josh Pisano

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Newlyweds Jill and Josh Pisano.

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Grandma Welch with my newlyborn cousin Preston.

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The Cobbles looking down towards Cheshire, MA.


School St. Cheshire, MA.

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Climbing up Mt. Greylock.

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Veterans War Memorial Tower on the summit of Mt. Greylock.

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Veterans War Memorial Tower on the summit of Mt. Greylock.

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Rainy view looking out from inside Bascom Lodge on Mt. Greylock.

Growing up in The Berkshires of Western Massachusetts, I’ve always loved Vermont. Reaching the border of MA/VT on the trail was exciting! The Appalachian Trail in Vermont merges together with the Long Trail for 105 miles. The Long Trail is the oldest long distance trail in the U.S., it was created in 1912 and runs 272 miles through the Green Mountains in Vermont, from Canada to Massachusetts. The state has been beautiful so far, a different type of woods filled with ponds, dark coniferous forests, different deciduous trees like Birch, which I love but also a lot of thick mud which I definitely do not love. Vermont might be my favorite state!

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Rocky trail near MA/VT border.

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MA/VT border.

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Starting to get muddy.

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Group of southbound hikers in Bennington.

Bennington, VT to Manchester Center, VT.
Vermont has been awesome so far! Back to climbing big mountains every day, the weather is much cooler and the scenery has been great. It feels like being in the wilderness again. South bound hikers are merging with north bounders at this point and it’s an interesting exchange of trail experiences, stories and trail conditions.

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Prometheus and High Water.

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Skrambo

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Head-n-Out and Tag-n-Along

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View from Goddard Shelter.

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View from Stratton Mountain.

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View from Stratton Mountain.

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View from Stratton Mountain.

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Toad on Stratton Mountain.

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Fire tower on Stratton Mountain.

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Stratton Pond.

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Stratton Pond.

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South bounder Stitch working on a hitch.

I love Vermont! The climbs have been long and steep but the views have been phenomenal! It’s been muddy with lots of mosquitoes but there have been tons of beautiful ponds, brooks and swimming spots! The daytime temperature is great for hiking, the night is cool and great for sleeping! Overall anything I could find to be annoying about the state is overwhelmed by the beauty and wilderness experience. It’s the perfect state for the outdoors!

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Climbing up Bromley Mountain.

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20120807-221910.jpgMe climbing up Bromley Mountain.

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The remains of the fire tower on top of Bromley Mountain.

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Bromley Mountain Summit.

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Bromley Mountain Summit ski lift.

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Bromley Mountain Summit ski lift.

20120807-222746.jpg Me on top of Bromley Mountain.

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Bob spelled backwards is still Bob, pumping water.

20120807-223132.jpgStorm at Peru Peak Shelter.

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20120807-223440.jpg Bog walk.

20120807-223535.jpg View from Baker Peak.

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Bob spelled backwards is still Bob, and Son on Baker Peak.

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Turbo on Baker Peak.

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Little Rock Pond.

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Little Rock Pond.

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Little Rock Pond.

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Little Rock Pond.

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Cairns.

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Cairns.

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Cairns.

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Cairns.

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Highwater sitting by a water fall.

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Domino Dude and Highwater hanging out by a waterfall and swimming hole.

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Daystar and Gribley resting.

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Chameleon climbing up a rock scramble.

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500 miles till Katahdin.

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Footbridge in area wiped out by last years Hurricane Irene.

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Prometheus and Highwater enjoying the view from the summit of Killington.

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View on the summit of Killington.

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Me on Killington.

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Best Irish pub I’ve been to, McGrath’s Irish Pub at The Inn at Long Trail in Killington, VT. The food was great and so was the beer! Pictured here is a Vermont Half and Half, Vermont’s Long Trail Ale with Guinness, plus a shamrock drawn in the foam for the Irish pub stamp of authenticity.

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The Irish themed Inn at Long Trail is very hiker friendly. The quote reads- ” A place where the dressed up folk, travel worn motorists and roughly dressed hiker all might mingle with no apologies necessary”

Killington, VT to Hanover, NH
Good bye Vermont, you were amazing and I’ll always remember you! Hello New Hampshire! The last few days have been stormy, the wet forrest took on a mystical like quality, the mountains were steeper than usually and the trail was very muddy. The Appalachian Trail split from the Long Trail right after Killington and continued 42 miles north east through the Green Mountains towards Hanover, NH. I’m now sitting in a hotel room in Hanover, NH, home of Dartmouth College, close to the allegedly most physically demanding sections of the trail, the notorious White Mountain National Forrest of New Hampshire then into the isolated tough terrain of Maine.

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The Inn at the Long Trail in Killington,VT, my favorite stay on the trail so far.

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Barn on VT route 12 I stayed in overnight to take shelter from a storm.

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Storm rolling in.

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AT sign points to the direction the trail forks from an old country road, someone wrote in below “when in doubt, the A.T. always goes up”, which is sarcastically true.

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Bowser cooking dinner at Thistle Hill Shelter on a cold rainy day.

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Captain Gutz relaxing at Happy Hill Shelter.

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Trail Magic and old hiking boot flower pots.

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Chameleon walking over Connecticut River Bridge into Hanover, NH in the rain.

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Hanover, New Hampshire!

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Me by the Hanover, NH sign.

New Hampshire has been a whole new trail experience so far, filled with steep accents and descents, slick vertical rock scrambles, great views and chilly weather. I enjoy the maze of boulders, at points it’s like a puzzle figuring out a pathway to avoid falling down the mountain. Mt. Moosilauke was intense! The summit was a mile above tree, clouded in, very windy, wet, pelting hail and the descent was the steepest rock scramble I’ve encountered. Luckily for me, it was pouring rain making the rocks slick as ice. It was a fun challenge but there were points I was definitely a little nervous.

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Bowser, Chameleon, and Sipsey leaving Hanover, NH.

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Chameleon on Lamberts Ridge.

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View of Smarts Mountain from Lamberts Ridge.

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Chameleon climbing up Smarts Mountain.

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Rock scramble.

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Chameleon on Mt. Cube.

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Rock scramble.

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Chameleon enjoying a view on the way up Mt. Cube.

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Cairns mark the way above tree line and along rock scrambles.

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Chameleon climbing Mt. Cube.

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Rock scramble on Mt. Cube.

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Scog on Mt. Cube.

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400 miles to Katahdin.

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Hikers Welcome Hostel in Glencliff, NH.

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Bowser snacking on candy during the climb up Mt. Moosilauke.

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Father Man and Chameleon climbing Mt. Moosilauke.

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Rocky Trail.

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Cairns mark the way above tree line.

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Cairns in the clouds.

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Me on the summit of Mt. Moosilauke.

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Me taking guard against from the wind and pelting hail on Mt. Moosilauke.

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Badger hiking down Mt. Moosilauke.

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Straight down slick rock for about 40 feet.

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The White Mountain National Forest of New Hampshire is absolutely amazing! The past week has been the most physically demanding hiking terrain I have ever encountered. One minute the mountains mesmerize with the beauty of 360 scenic vistas, the next moment life is on the line trying conquer vertical rock scrambles with a 35 pound pack. The rush and reward are both breathtaking. Deep concentration on foot and hand placement is mandatory while navigating these powerful mountains. Summit weather can change at the drop of a dime, making the long steep miles above tree line as nerve racking as they are beautiful. The Whites are very serious and require extra planning and strategy to cross. Most thru hikers have slowed their paces and daily milage significantly. A lot of rules and regulations are put in place by The AMC ( Appalachian Mountain Club) throughout the National Forest. Huts are set up that require thru hikers to do work for stay or pay $90 to stay, stealth camping is punishable by a hefty fine ( although still easily done), pay shelters and campsites are also available, which usually also have a work for stay option. I was very opposed to the rules before entering and agreed with the people that call the AMC the Appalachian Money Club, but after going through a majority of the National Forest my opinion has changed. The Hut workers called Croo are all very cool so far and have been more than generous so far with helping thru hikers out by giving free food, hot and cold drinks, a nice warm friendly lodging and shelter from elements. The Croo carry all the supplies and food miles in on their own backs with packs that way more than 80 pounds. My experience with work for stay has been sweeping out a bunk room floor and another was planting trees in a revegation zone, in return I received a warm place to sleep on the dinning room floor or a flat tent pad in a nice location plus all I can eat of leftovers from the formal dinner and breakfast which is a fest, because they cook huge amounts of food with hungry thru hikers in mind. The rules and Hut system seem to keep most hikers from pushing to hard and exhausting themselves, risking serious injury or death. I still don’t agree with paying money for a place to quickly crash, I have no problem doing some easy work to help out a cool environment and receive endless pancakes and coffee in the morning!

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Rain Man

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Steep trail.

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Accidentally stepped in mud that went up to my shins.

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Steep trail.

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This root saved me from a serious 20 foot fall when lost balance during a rock scramble.

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Easy Rider.

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Tooth Fairy.

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Tooth Fairy going down a rock scramble.

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Chameleon going down rock scramble.

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Tooth Fairy going down a steep scramble

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Chameleon going down a steep rocky scramble.

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Tooth Fairy and Chameleon going down a steep scramble.

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Lonesome Lake.

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Steep trail.

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Chameleon climbing up Little Haystack.

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Chameleon.

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Tooth Fairy climbing up to Franconia Ridge

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Mt. Lincoln on Franconia Ridge.

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Franconia Ridge.

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Franconia Ridge.

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Franconia Ridge

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Mt. Lincoln.

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Franconia Ridge

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Tooth Fairy and Chameleon climbing a rock scramble on Franconia Ridge.

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Chameleon climbing Mt. Lincoln.

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Mt. Lafayette.

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Me on Franconia Ridge.

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Hikers on Franconia Ridge.

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Tooth Fairy.

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Seriously steep rock scramble going down Mt. Garfield. I approached this drop and stopped dead in my tracks thinking I was off trail.

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Chameleon and Tooth Fairy navigating rock scramble down Mt. Garfield.

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Thru hikers hanging out at Galehead Hut.

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Sunset with Mt. Garfield.

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Tooth Fairy, Skrambo, and Rocket on South Twin summit.

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Tooth Fairy and Skrambo on South Twin summit.

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Rocket on South Twin summit.

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Thoreau Falls.

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Chameleon climbing up Webster Cliffs.

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Mt. Webster.

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Chameleon climbing Webster Cliffs.

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View of Webster Cliffs from Mt. Webster.

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The Presidential Range. Mt Eisenhower, Mt Franklin, Mt Monroe and Mt Washington is the of the peaks.

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The Presidential Range a couple minutes later with Mt. Washington in the clouds.

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A Grayjay.

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Me on Mt. Jackson with Presidential Range behind me.

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Mizpah Hut.

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Planting 4 trees for work for stay at Nauman Campsite.

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Caretaker at Nauman Campsite.

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My tent platform at Nauman Campsite.

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The Presidential Range.

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Alpine vegetation on The Presidential range which is above tree line.

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The Cog Railway going up Mt. Washigton and the top of Lakes of The Clouds Hut.

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Lakes of the Clouds Hut.

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Mt. Washington.

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Croo member carrying food and supplies down Mt. Washington to Lakes of the Clouds Hut. His pack must weigh over 80 pounds.

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View from Mt. Washington.

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Head-n-Out, me and Chameleon on Mt. Washington summit.

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The Cog Railway going down Mt. Washington.

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Rocky Trail up Mt. Jefferson.

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Rocky Trail.

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Madison Hut at the base of Mt. Madison.

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Steep rock scramble up Mt. Madison.

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Chameleon on the steep rock scramble down Mt. Madison.

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Wow, leaving the White Mountain National Forrest and entering Southern Maine has been exhilarating, incredibly tough, and tiring on the body. The mountains are like one big rock. The miles go by slow due to non stop vertical scrambling up and down, from peak to peak which takes maximum effort from every part of the body. Hiking 10-12 miles each day feels like 30 miles. The wilderness is rugged, raw and beautiful! Autumn is slowly starting to creep in and definitely feels like it at night with temperatures dropping to the 40’s. I would say the terrain in Southern Maine has been a little tougher than the Whites so far but also has the one of funnest section I’ve encountered on the trail. A mile and a half, small car to semi truck sized bolder field maze located in the Mahoosuc Notch just across the border from New Hampshire it was amazing and very challenging. I also saw life flash before my eyes getting caught in extreme weather in the alpine zone on Baldpate mountain. Maine has officially welcomed me in.

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Tooth Fairy and Sipsey say bye after dropping off Chameleon and I at Pinkham Notch. We were hiking with them and Rain Man for a week and a half.

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Steep trail going up the Wildcat Mountain from Pinkham Notch.

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Rock scramble up the Wildcat Mountain.

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Chameleon climbing up steep scramble on the Wildcat Mountain.

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Chameleon climbing up steep rock trail on the Wildcat Mountain.

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Gondola down the Wildcat Ski Resort, for a lunch break.

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Cater Dome.

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Carter Dome.

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Voltron leaving Gorham, NH.

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Voltron climbing Mt. Hayes.

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Medicine Man on Mt. Hayes.

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Chameleon and Voltron climbing Cascade Mountain.

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Mud.

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Moose eating at Gentian Pond.

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Steep trail.

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Exploring the remnants of an old plane crash on Mt. Success.

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Voltron exploring remnants of an old plane crash on Mt. Success.

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Chameleon and Voltron climbing down a rock scramble.

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New Hampshire, Maine border.

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Mud at least 3 feet deep.

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Steep climb up Goose Eye Mountain.

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Steep climb up Goose Eye Mountain.

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Voltron and Chameleon climbing down steep scramble.

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Steep trail.

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Voltron entering Mahoosuc Notch, a mile and half bolder field maze.

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Voltron in Mahoosuc Notch.

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Voltron in Mahoosuc Notch.

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Voltron climbing up a bolder on the trail in Mahoosuc Notch.

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Voltron in Mahoosuc Notch.

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Sunkist and Roller in Mahoosuc Notch.

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Voltron in Mahoosuc Notch.

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Roller in Mahoosuc Notch.

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Steep trail up Mahoosuc Arm.

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Voltron climbing up Mahoosuc Arm.

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Steep trail up Mahoosuc Arm.

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Steep trail up Mahoosuc Arm.

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Speck Pond.

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Trail on Baldpate cliffs. This was the scariest section on the trail for me, I got caught in down pour which turned to sleet, the wind was intensely strong with the summit speed was predicted to be up to 70 mph. I was exposed above tree line for 1 mile trying to navigate the slick rock cliffs, drenched to the bone with sleet pelting my face making it hard to see and extremely high wind pushing me back and blowing me around. I was scared for my life and feel blessed to have made it safely through.

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Looking back at Baldpate.

I have a love, hate relationship with Maine. The state is gorgeous when it’s not trying to kill me! I love a good challenge but I’m becoming worn down physically and mentally. The terrain is consistently exhausting and worse when weather adds a whole new set of obstacles. While climbing up Saddleback to the The Horn, rain clouds started to move in. I set up camp before it got bad but woke up freezing cold with a puddle in my tent. Everything was wet, I put on my wet hiking clothes and quickly broke down camp, shivering in the morning downpour. I hiked on to get blood flowing and warm up a little, the trail was a rushing river from all the rain. After tromping through ankle deep water on slick rocks over Saddleback Junior I’d had enough and decided to stop at Popular Ridge Shelter to put on my dry clothes and get shelter from the elements. I was very worried about hypothermia but there was no fast direct way out of the forrest to town so I stayed at the shelter all day in my sleeping bag waiting the rain out. Times like that are when I hate Maine. For all the negative emotions I have towards Southern Maine, it has been filled with some of the most exciting moments of my life and as many highs as lows.

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Morning view of Rangeley Lake.

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Frenchy and Slingshot

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Slingshot enjoying the view.

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Frenchy

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Frenchy reading a sign.

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Mud

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Climbing up Saddleback.

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On Saddleback looking towards The Horn.

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Weather came in quick on The Horn.

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The trail turned into a rushing river.

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Trail going up Saddleback Junior.

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Trail going up Saddleback Junior.

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Wet rock scramble going down Saddleback Junior.

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Wet trail going down Saddleback Junior.

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Daystar fording the Oberton Stream.

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Gribley fording the Oberton Stream.

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Cheese Water fording the Oberton Stream.

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Plaque dedicated to the Maine Civilian Conservation Corps.

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Pace and Hungus hiking down Sugarloaf Mountain.

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Rocky trail up Crocker Mountain.

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Southern Maine kicked my butt!
The Bigelows were the last 4000 ft plus mountains till Katahdin. The Bigelow Mountains were challenging, rugged and beautiful. It’s nice to have a break from the steep, high climbs. The terrain in the lower elevation of Maine has been nice, but very boggy also filled with rocks, roots and mud. I’ve passed countless serene ponds and lakes. While camping at East Carry Pond, I listened to the beautifully eerie calls of the Loon all night, it was amazing. The temperature has been cold at night dropping into the lower 30’s. Despite the difficulties, I’ve been enjoying slowing down to take my time experiencing Maine.

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Jiffy Pop in Stratton Me, eating a breakfast of champions, a half gallon of ice cream and a Coke.

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Three wooden hiker bears outside of The Stratton Motel.

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Father Man, OWF, and Medicine Man.

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Medicine Man and Father Man fishing.

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Solo hiking up to Horn Mountain in the Bigelow Range.

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OWF hiking up to Horn Mountain in the Bigelow Range.

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Solo hiking up to Horn Mountain in the Bigelow Range.

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The Bigelows.

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Sugarloaf Mountain.

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Mad Hat.

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The Bigelows.

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Horns Pond.

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Tater Tot and Medicine Man fishing.

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Horns Mountain.

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South Horn.

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View of Flagstaff Lake.

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Mad Hat enjoying the view climbing Little Bigelow Mountain.

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Mad Hat climbing Little Bigelow Mountain.

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Flagstaff Lake.

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Mud.

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East Carry Pond.

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East Carry Pond.

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Rampage and I in the ferry about to cross the Kennebec River.

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Hillbilly Dave the ferry service operator, paddling us across the Kennebec River.

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Thru hiker Rampage and Hillbilly Dave the Ferry Operator of the Kennebec River.

A week until the Autumn Equinox, the woods are changing daily. Brown squirrels, mice, and chipmunks are on the move forging for food and being little nuisances by stalking hikers, eating through unguarded packs, food bags and tents. Streams and river that would usually have bridges in other states, require fording. Mud, water crossings, rock hops and broken bog bridges are a big part of the terrain. Changing into my crocs every hour is pointless, my feet are bound to get wet anyway. I romp through the water and muck in my boots, stop periodically to ring out my socks, my feet look like prunes at the end of the day. Damn it Maine! Even the “easy” sections are a filled with uncomfortable obstacles. Waking up daily to the dreamy cry of the loon has been surreal. I’m sitting at Shaw’s a trail famous and awesome hostel in Monson Maine. The town is packed with excited hikers preparing mentally and stocking up on supplies for the next and for most final section of trail ” The Wilderness”. The Hundred Mile Wilderness requires delicate planning, food and supply restock, plus the awareness that there are no easily accessible roads or towns for a hundred miles. The Wilderness is the home stretch for most northbound thru hikers leading into Baxter State Park, home of Mt. Katahdin the Northern Terminus of the Appalachian Trail.

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Pleasant Pond

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Scramble up Pleasant Pond Mountain.

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Climb up Pleasant Pond Mountain.

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Rocks climbing up Moxie Bald.

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Trail up Moxie Bald.

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Tall Grass, Great Lakes, and The Old Buzzard, on Moxie Bald.

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Moxie Bald summit.

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Bald Mountain Pond.

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Bald Mountain Pond.

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Mud

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Tall Grass and Great Lakes fording the Piscataquis River.

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“You love it and you fear it, It is wild and harsh and high, A mass of ancient granite towering into the sky. For Indians who revered it and climbers of today, A symbol of a spirit that will never pass away.”- Katahdin by Earl Shaffer, the first person to complete a thru hike of the Appalachian Trail.

In Monson, ME I ran into my friend Ranger Bill who I hadn’t seen since Atkins, VA. We headed out into The Hundred Mile Wilderness with ridiculously heavy packs, filled with ten days with of food. The beginning of “The Wilderness” was similar to Southern Maine, extremely rugged. My pack strap snapped five miles in, I had to jerry-rig it together with knots and duct tape. The weight distribution of my pack was off and causing a strenuous pull on my left shoulder. It was cold and rainy the second day in we decided to stop early and have a zero day at Cloud Pond Lean-to. When we arrived early at the shelter Flintstone and Grizzly were already there collecting wood and working on a building a raging fire, so we joined in, and they ended up zeroing with us. Climbing White Cap we had our first view of Katahdin. Periodically throughout “The Wilderness” Katahdin is in view, getting bigger and bigger everyday, seeming like a magnet pulling hikers in. The terrain in Maine is relentless, it’s rocks and roots, bog bridges, then more rocks and roots all day. My feet were killing me by the time I got to Abol Bridge Campground, the end of the Hundred Mile Wilderness. We stayed at the campground, kicked back by a pond and had a few beers while looking at Mt. Katahdin, which we were two days away from climbing. In the morning we hiked ten miles into Baxter State Park to check in with the park ranger and sign up to summit the next day. The weather report was fifty percent chance of rain, but we were determined to climb regardless. It turned out to be quite an adventure. The morning started off rainy which meant it was going to be slick. We hiked cautiously up the rocky mountain. To get up to Katahdin’s “table lands”, the less steep climb, requires a three mile boulder scramble straight up.The accent and decent of Mt. Katahdin was the toughest and most dramatic climb on the Appalachian Trail, it’s a great mountain to house the Northern Terminus. Reaching the end is bittersweet, months ago it seemed like this adventure was going to last forever. I’ve made great friendships throughout this journey, now everyone is parting ways to head back into society. I reached the finish line but still have a section of trail to make up to officially be a thru hiker. My hike will still continue, I’m jumping back on trail in Dalton MA and will walk south bound down to PA.

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Stoves, Grizzly, and Ranger Bill

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Southern entrance to The Hundred Mile Wilderness.

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Ranger Bill.

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Ranger Bill fording Wilber Brook.

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Ranger Bill fording Wilber Brook.

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My snapped pack strap jerry-rigged together.

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Ranger Bill climbing up Third Mountain.

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Grizzly with red squirrel and chipmunk traps.

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Squirrel trap with peanut bait.

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Grizzly setting second squirrel trap.

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Raging fire during zero day at Cloud Pond Lean-to.

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Flintstone.

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Cloud Pond.

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Ranger Bill, Grizzly, and Flintstone playing cards at Cloud Pond Lean-to.

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Cloud Pond.

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Mud puzzle.

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Ranger Bill

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Ranger Bill

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Ranger Bill.

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Ranger Bill fording The West Branch of the Pleasant River.The river was freezing cold!

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First view of Katahdin, while climbing White Cap.

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Ranger Bill on White Cap.

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View of Katahdin from White Cap.

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View of Katahdin from White Cap.

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View of Katahdin.

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Ranger Bill walking by Nahmakanta Lake.

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Ranger Bill on Nesuntabunt summit with Katahdin viewed in the background.

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Nahmakanta Lake with Katahdin in the background.

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Ranger Bill walking out of Potaywadjo Spring Lean-to.

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Katahdin!

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View of Katahdin from Abol Bridge.

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View of Katahdin from the Campground at Abol Bridge.

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View of Katahdin from the Campground at Abol Bridge.

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Moose hunting season just started.

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Moose being tagged at Abol Bridge.

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Entrance to Baxter State Park.

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View of Katahdin from Baxter State Park.

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State Park Staffer Jonathan brought us a home made carrot cake to celebrate.

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Blue Sky on summit morning in Katahdin Stream Campground.

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Ranger Bill signing in before summiting Katahdin.

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Ranger Bill climbing Katahdin

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Ranger Bill climbing Katahdin.

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Ranger Bill climbing Katahdin.

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Thoreau Springs.

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Table lands.

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Katahdin Summit!

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Ranger Bill and I on Katahdin Summit.

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Me on the summit of Katahdin.

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Me kissing the Katahdin summit sign.

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Blue Sky arriving to the summit of Katahdin.

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Ranger Bill, Blue Sky, and I at the summit of Katahdin.

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Dream catcher on the summit of Katahdin.

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Blue Sky on the summit of Katahdin.

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Clouds rolled in quick.

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Great Lakes and Tall Grass arriving the summit of Katahdin.

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Blue Sky hiking down Katahdin.

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Blue Sky hiking down Katahdin.

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Ranger Bill and Blue Sky hiking down Katahdin.

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Blue Sky Hiking down Katahdin.

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Ranger Bill and Blue Sky climbing down Katahdin.

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Back in tree line.

Since summiting Mt. Katahdin, I feel finished with my hike. However, I still have some miles to make up to complete an official thru hike. My parents and brother met me in up Millinoket, ME with a rental RV, we visited Acadia National Park and coastal Maine towns and also stopped at the famously huge 24hr L.L.Bean store. Despite the rainy New England weather the family adventure was awesome, Acadia was amazing, the seafood was delicious and the company was great. After a brief visit with family in MA, I jumped back on trail in Dalton, MA and started my make up hike southbound, I kinda feel like a high schooler having to attend summer school to graduate. The trail is a lot different now, there aren’t other thru hikers around. I do enjoy the solitude of this section it gives me time to think and forces me to hike my own hike. It can also be very lonely out there cause I don’t have the camaraderie I’m so use to from past. I have met plenty of section hikers and day hikers to talk and share stories with. Section and day hikers are out to enjoy themselves and generally have very up beat and enthusiastic attitudes about their hike, which is refreshing. Autumn in The Berkshires Mountains of Western Massachusetts is gorgeous! The leaves are almost at peak color and falling to the ground in great numbers. Walking the trail through the leaves can be difficult, the rocks and roots are hidden and when wet the leaf covered terrain is slicker than slick.

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Acadia National Park

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Acadia National Park

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My mother wading in the salt water waves of the Atlantic Ocean at Acadia National Park.

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My mother wading in the salt water waves of the Atlantic Ocean at Acadia National Park.

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My brother “baby steps” at Acadia National Park.

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My father taking photos at Acadia National Park. He’s the one who got me into photography when I was younger and also gave me my first camera, his old Chinon 35mm SLR to experiment with.

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Acadia National Park

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Acadia National Park

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My brother “baby steps” at Acadia National Park.

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My parents walking through the fog at Acadia National Park

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Back on trail, walking through the fallen leaves in The Berkshires, my old stomping ground.

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Bridge crossing over I90 the Mass Pike.

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The Cabin at Upper Goose Pond, this place was awesome! A donation based stay with warm bunk rooms, common room with a fireplace and pancake breakfast.

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Upper Goose Pond.

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The section from Connecticut to New Jersey was beautiful, especially with the fall foliage at peak! However hiking in rainy weather 70 percent of the time was definitely frustrating. The leaf covered ground makes navigating the trail tricky, as trail legend “Uncle Walt” told me as I was leaving Mt. Algo Shelter “you have to learn the way of the leaves”. Fall hiking adds new challenges such as shorter daylight, cooler temperatures, wet weather, consistently slick terrain… and Hurricanes!!! I’m currently stuck in Vernon, New Jersey waiting out the “Frankenstorm”, Hurricane Sandy, which is predicted to be the storm of the century.

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Leaving Great Barrington, MA.

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Shays Rebellion Monument.

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Sages Ravine.

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Ten Mile River.

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Appalachian Trail Metro North Railroad Station, a commuter railway into New York City located near Wingdale, NY.

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The Dover Oak Tree. The largest Oak Tree on the AT, it’s estimated to be over 300 years old.

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911 Painted Memorial Flag on Shenandoah Mountain.

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The Hudson River.

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Bear Mountain Bridge over the Hudson River.

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Bear Mountain Bridge over the Hudson River.

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Bear Mountain Bridge over the Hudson River.

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Bear Mountain Bridge over the Hudson River.

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The Hudson River.

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View of The Hudson River and The Bear Mountain Bridge.

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Steps going up Bear Mountain.

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View of Bear Mountain.

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Section hiker Harmon “Recoil”. He hooked me up with warm coffee every time I ran into him!

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The Lemon Squeezer.

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Fitzgerald Falls

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Section hikers Sandy “Indian Cucumber” and Harmon “Recoil” taking a break at Fitzgerald Falls.

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Once superstorm Sandy started to die down, I headed back to the trail. Sections through Jersey and parts of PA were ravaged with down trees and blown down branches. The terrain became progressively rockier in PA, then turned to into “rocksylvania”. Hiking on the small, sharp rocks and boulders all day in PA hurt my feet more than another section of the trail. Finally I reached my goal, US 11, Carlisle PA, and walked the highway into town with the sunsetting in front of me and semi trucks flying by on my side. I’ve completed my mission, after 8 months and over 2,185 miles, I hiked the Appalachian Trail!

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High Point, New Jersey.

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The Doyle Hotel in Duncannon, PA, is an over 104 year old hotel and one of the most hiker friendly places on trail.

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My end point US 11 in Carlisle, PA.

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