THE FINAL DAYS

The final climb up Katahdin was an experience I'll never forget. Adios and I left at sunrise to start the 5.5 mile walk up Katahdin to Baxter Peak. The forecast said full sun and warm but we were quickly greeted with dense fog, strong winds and cold temps. A few times we questioned if we should keep walking but had come too far to turn back now.

Arriving at the peak we realized that we the first two up and had the mountain to ourselves for a bit, precious time I will never forget.

Thanks for coming along for the ride,

 Over and Outro

  More stream crossings along the way

More stream crossings along the way

 Sandy beaches of Maine, spent the day relaxing and swimming before the final 30 or miles to get to Baxter State Park.   

Sandy beaches of Maine, spent the day relaxing and swimming before the final 30 or miles to get to Baxter State Park.

 

 Another view of the end from the Rainbow Ledges   

Another view of the end from the Rainbow Ledges

 

 The final mile of the 100 mile Wilderness   

The final mile of the 100 mile Wilderness

 

 Signing in for The Birches. We decided to take a serious photo... Adios was just to excited!   

Signing in for The Birches. We decided to take a serious photo... Adios was just to excited!

 

 Katahdin, brilliant   

Katahdin, brilliant

 

 Entering BSP   

Entering BSP

 

 7.5 miles to the end   

7.5 miles to the end

 

 The Birches lean-to

The Birches lean-to

 Walking up Katahdin

Walking up Katahdin

 Me, Adios, Warm and Toasty, Old Eagle Scout, Walking Home, McFly, Bee Stinger   

Me, Adios, Warm and Toasty, Old Eagle Scout, Walking Home, McFly, Bee Stinger

 

 The end of a long journey

The end of a long journey

 The table lands

The table lands

THE MAINE EVENT

August 21 - September ?

Miles: 1891 - 2189.2

Service in Maine is very limited so I'll post when I can. In the meantime here are some recent phots.

What I can say about Maine so far is that it's very muddy but very beautiful! The first 150 miles of the state were extremely tough and after just finishing the White's we were exhausted. But now that we can see the end in sight, we're determined to push on through long days. After a week of mostly 20+ mile days, we're now in Monson, ME and preparing to head into the 100 mile wilderness tomorrow.

The 100 mile wilderness should take about a week to complete and ends at Baxter State Park. The following day we'll head up Mt. Katahdin to the northern terminus of the AT.

It's been an amazing journey so far and hard to believe that I have only a week left in the trail.

See you on the top of Katahdin!

-Outro

 Adios, Neemor, Southpaw and Me at the NH/Maine sign!

Adios, Neemor, Southpaw and Me at the NH/Maine sign!

 I'd waited so long to touch that sign, I wanted to take it with me!

I'd waited so long to touch that sign, I wanted to take it with me!

 I'm going to miss these sunsets

I'm going to miss these sunsets

 Mahoosuc Notch. The hardest mile on the trail. Here's Neemor scooting through a tight squeeze. Follow the arrows, I guess!   

Mahoosuc Notch. The hardest mile on the trail. Here's Neemor scooting through a tight squeeze. Follow the arrows, I guess!

 

 Lots of rain, slick rock, lots of slipping.   

Lots of rain, slick rock, lots of slipping.

 

 Maine, one giant bog.   

Maine, one giant bog.

 

THE WHITE MOUNTAINS

August 12 - 20

Miles: 1799.8 - 1890.9

The White Mountains had a little bit of everything. Good weather, bad weather, smooth terrain, rocky terrain, highs and lows. Overall, they were a good representation of the trail so far.

Shelter in the White's is a little different than it's been for the majority of the trip. Entry into this national forest meant strict stealth camping regulations, paying for campsites and trying to get work-for- stay at the huts. And spending so much time above tree line, it seemed like we were at the mercy of the AMC (Appalachian Mountain (money) Club) who owned most of the camping sites. When you're above tree line, camping is not advised because the weather can change rapidly and you are completely exposed if this happens. One experience in particular left a sour taste in my mouth about the AMC, when we treated especially poorly at the Lake of the Clouds. This was the first time on the trail that I was made to feel like trash, which was quite unexpected after all of the positive comments we'd been hearing. A mixture of this experience, hard terrain and physical fatigue, morale was at a low.

Fortunately, the next day brought good weather and making it up Mount Washington for sunrise cleared away some of the negativity from the day before.

Soon we finished the White's and are looking forward to Maine!

-Outro

VER-MY THIS PLACE SMELLS GOOD

July 26 - August 7

Miles 1596.7 - 1746.5

Vermont is the best smelling state on the trail this far! Immediately after crossing into VT, the smell of pine, spruce and fir hit us like a ton of bricks (but was much welcomed after not showering for a few days)! Entering into VT also meant that we would be walking part of the Long Trail, about the first 100 miles. The LT is the oldest long-distance trail in the United States and runs from VT's southern border up to Canada. Along the way we met so many new hikers walking the LT, something to add to the bucket list!

For now I've been regularly hiking with 8 paws (Clover, M&M and Mya the dog), Laces, Adios, South Paw and Airlock. It's been amazing hiking with a group and we've slowed down a bit to enjoy the remaining miles.  Most of the day I still hike alone but for lunch breaks and at night we all usually end up in the same place.

Vermont has also been the state of ponds and great views. Every day brings about a wonderful new pond for swimming (and bathing) and climbs with rewardingly epic views. And with every new view leads to us trying to spot the White Mountains.  As we get closer to White Mountain National Forest, their peaks loom in the distance almost tormenting us. As NoBo's we've been hearing about the White's for 1,500 miles now and they're all anyone talks about now. The reason for all this is the difficulty of the mountains there. For a while now we've become used to long miles days with elevation gains of roughly 1,000 feet at a time. In the White Mountains however we'll be forced to tone down our mileage considerably as we take on 4,000+ feet of elevation change at a time. But no need to worry just yet...

See you in New Hampshire,
 Outro

MOSQUITO MADNESS IN MASSACHUSETTS

July 19 - July 26

Miles 1506.3 - 1596.7

Looking back on my journey through Mass, it's hard not to think about it without remembering the incessant buzzing of mosquitoes. Luckily I had my nifty bug net shirt to keep the damage at a minimum. I had some great times to offset all the bites though and overall had an amazing time.

One of my favorite places on the trail this far is Upper Goose Lake Pond. This was an amazing cabin in the middle of the woods next to an equally spectacular pond with a bunk house, canoes and kayaks. It is completely donation based and is open to any hiker who happens to walk by. The property is run by a group of caretakers who make sure the property is staffed all summer long and make pancakes and coffee for hikers in the morning. Adios, Warcry and I were all told about this place and beforehand and spent the whole day there swimming and hanging out with other thru-hikers. To make it even sweeter, midday a couple showed up with trail magic of pizza and cookies!

A little later was our trip to the famous Cookie Lady! She and her husband welcome hundreds of hikers into their home every year and give out homemade cookies! Mr. Cookie Lady informed us we were the 20something hikers to show up just hat day... It's safe to say we're in the bubble!

Thank you everyone for your wonderful comments! One of my favorite parts of going into town is taking my phone off airplane mode and reading all the words of encouragement!

Until next time,

Outro

ENTRY INTO NEW ENGLAND

July 16 - July 19

Miles 1462.9 - 1506.2

Here's a quick update, Connecticut was amazing! I've never been to this state before so it's really cool walking through as my first time.

One highlight was hanging out with Warcry, Adios and China Rock. Warcry had friends in Woodstock, NY so we got to stay at their beautiful house and take a zero.

Hope to update more soon. For now here are some photos!

-Outro

THE GREAT DELI TOUR

July 11th - 16th

Miles: 1365.8 - 1462.9

Whenever I come across someone who's hiked the trail before, I always ask them about fun things up ahead. The answers normally vary but the common thread that everyone mentions is that the trail just keeps getting better the further north you go. And how right they are! New York is a tough state but definitely rewarding. I think this tiny note AWOL slipped in his guide book sums up NY pretty well. The note reads: 'Despite the unimposing profile, rocks, abrupt ups and downs make this section challenging.'

What makes it so challenging (and fun) are the many rock scrambles along the way. Twice in NY I had to take my pack off, chuck it and my poles up over a ledge and climb on up to get them. Another day, I came across a ladder that someone had bolted to a boulder to help hikers get up and down the section.

New York is also known as the deli tour on the trial because of the many food stands near the road crossings. My favorite was perhaps at NY17A. Just a quarter of a mile down the road was the self-proclaimed NY's best hotdog stand and Bellvale Farms Cremery, both which I visited. Hikers always joke that we lose all of our standards after being out in the woods for so long and maybe that's the case, but darn that was some of the best pineapple sorbet and sauerkraut hotdogs I've ever had.

NY brought one of my favorite nights on the trail this far, at West Mountain Shelter. AWOL promised views to NY City at various times of the day but the high humidity meant hazy sky's and thus no such views. Disappointed, I knew my only shot would be to hike the extra .6 of a mile to West Mt. Shelter and hope NYC's lights were bright enough against the night's sky. After a tough day of hills and rock scrambles I arrived to the shelter just before sunset and to my surprise was he only one there! I set up my hammock to the shelter rafters, using the overhang as my canopy for the night. As the sky darkened I was overjoyed when the skyline started to appear and only grew more stunning as the night went on, definitely a night to remember.

-Outro

OUT WITH THE OLD, IN WITH THE NEW JERSEY

July 7th-11th

miles: 1,293.6 - 1,365.8

After leaving PA I'm feeling much better. We're starting to get nice vistas again and the rocky terrain has certainly calmed down. NJ also means the potential for more bear sightings. On just my second day in the state I saw two, bringing my total for the trail up to 8. Fortunately, all of them have run away quickly after making lots of noise and yelling gibberish. Just after crossing the border, I caught back up with my friend Fiddler! I had walked with him back down south and was excited to see him again. We walked together, also with a new friend Miami Vice, off and on for the rest of NJ. I also caught back up with the Biff Network, a family from Dallas hiking the trail. I had met them originally in Erwin, TN and with five kids ages 8 to 17, they are hard to miss. With PA safely in the rear view mirror and running into old friends, I'm finally starting to let myself dream about Katahdin. Still, many miles to go...

States completed: Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania

Current: New Jersey

States to come: New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine

-Outro

ROCKS, PAPER, SCISSORS, ROCKS

Things are moving fast and furious at this point and I'm doing all I can to keep up remembering all the places, dates and times. Around mid-June my dad came out to walk with me for two weeks! I was able to take a little side trip to Washington, D.C. because I was a few days early meeting him there. Sara was so gracious in letting me crash at her place and I had a blast touring the city and going to a Nationals game! It's a very strange feeling to be around so many people again and thrown back into society. It really makes me wonder what will be in store for me after this trip ends. Still a long way to go though and many more miles to cover. My dad and I were able to get through West Virginia, Maryland and most of Pennsylvania together which was a huge morale booster. Pennsylvania was a very difficult state and is notorious for mentally wearing down AT thru-hikers because of all the rocks. It's especially draining to walk over miles and miles of rocks all day in constant fear of twisting an ankle or falling and at this point a broken leg would mean the end of the road for one of us. I was very lucky to have my dad there for most of it. On his first day out we put in 18 miles and he followed that up with a 19 and 20 later in the trip. A lot of high mileage days kept me on track and we only took one side trip to Urgent Care! (the PA rocks one round against my dad but he won the war)

I'd been looking forward to my sister and dad coming out to meet me it's a little surreal that they have both come and gone. All that's left is eyes straight ahead to Katahdin now (and the White's of course)! The states and going to start coming fast and furious, spending only a few days in each.

Until next time,

Outro

SHENANDOAH NATIONAL PARK

Miles 861 to 1023

June 6th - June 16th

From Rockfish Gap Elyse and I started our adventure together through SNP. I was thrilled to be able to share this experience with someone from home first hand. We were off and running immediately after she arrived and headed to the first campsite. One of the coolest parts for me to see how far I've come. While helping set up camp and cook dinner if was fun to share everything I'd learned over the past two months. Over the next days we had an amazing time stopping at waysides (SNP is known for these) to eat and hiking through the park. I'm so grateful to have shared this trip with her!

Once again on my own I continued north. I always find it amazing how the trial shuffles and reorganizes people. Sometimes you could be 5 miles behind someone for months and never meet them, other times you leapfrog with hikers giving the trail a familiarity of a small town. One of these instances is when Elyse and I met fellow hikers Ken and Karen our first night at Calf Mountain Hut (In SNP they call them huts not shelters). I continued to see them on and off for the next week and a half and was always grateful when I did, familiar faces among so much unknown is remarkably comforting for the soul. On our last night in the park they offered to put me up at Terrapin Station Hostel, an amazing end to SNP.

The next week was spent making up miles through Virginia, which has more miles of the trial than any other state (around 550). I was lucky enough to meet back up with two of my favorite thru-hikers, Airlock and Yoda, and spent many days hiking with them. One notable stop we made was for the night at Bear's Den Hostel. It's an old stone building nestled in the 'roller coaster' section of the AT and the perfect hiatus to the elevation madness of this section. Probably the biggest highlight of this section was crossing into West Virginia and making it to Harpers Ferry. This is the location of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy Headquarters and is where they document all thru-hikers in their journey to Main. I was number 634 to walk through since the start of the 2015 season. Catch you all down the trail!

-Outro

LONG DAYS, LASTING MEMORIES

May 24th - June 3rd

Towards the end of May I started walking longer miles and continued to meet up with friends Adios, Autodraft and Bandit. Our longest day so far was a 26.4 mile day which took us from all the way from Niday Shelter (mile 685.3) to McAfee Knob (mile 7.11.7). Around mid-morning that day we were lucky to hit some trail magic provided by former thru-hikers and made our way to see the Audie Murphy Monument. Audie Murphy was the most decorated WWII soldier and it was especially fitting that we were there on Memorial day weekend.  Around midday we hit Dragon's Tooth and caught back up with Stealth Bomber and Cyborg. A few more miles and a few more calories (eaten and burned) we were excited to make it to the Knob in time for sunset! No camping is allowed on the Knob so we definitely didn't camp there that night and then wake up for an amazing sunrise the next morning :) 

Early the next morning we headed out for Daleville, VA where we took a much needed zero day to recover. 

A few more days and a few more miles, still traveling with Adios and Bandit, we stopped by Glasgow, VA to resupply and see the dinosaur statue we'd heard about from other hikers. In honor of the upcoming Jurassic World premier we shot this amazing video: www.facbook.com/james.cape2/videos/10103531298042273/ 
Mad props to Autodraft for editing and production!

On June 3rd I arrived in Waynesboro, VA ahead of schedule and will wait for my first visitor of the trip, big sis!
I can't wait to hike Shenandoah Valley National Park with Elyse! Wish up luck!

-Outro

NEW PLACES, NEW FACES

May 17th- May 23rd

I'm back on the trail after Trail Days and glad to be hiking again. The time off seemed to shift people around too. Some folks went to Damascus, some continued walking, so now I feel that I'm meeting more new people than ever. 

A routine has definitely formed, wake up, walk north, sleep, repeat, and I've found comfort in the simplicity of the schedule. When in doubt, follow the white blazes and it's pretty interesting how much we've (AT hikers) have all become creatures of habit. We've learned by now that the white blazes are our lifeline. They haven't failed me yet, so I follow them at all cost. So much so sometimes that when the trail comes to a road I've actually been confused as to where to go next (usually the answer is directly across).

Also, here are some rules for never getting lost on the AT: 

1) Always follow the white blazes. If you think the trail should be going a different way than where the white blazes are taking you, you're wrong.

2) If you're on a trail and you see an adjacent mountain that goes higher than the mountain you're about to climb, you're on the wrong trail. 

3) If you come to a fork in the path and one way ascends and the other descends, always choose up.

4) Never be afraid to ask a passerby if they are Nobo or Sobo. It might save you hours of time and miles of travel in the end. 

-Outro

DAMASCUS, SO NICE I WENT TWICE

May 8th: The day brought about a new personal best, 24.1 miles! I ended the day with old and new friends, Tarp Man, Shimmy, Stealth Bomber and Cyborg. Tomorrow I will nero into Damascus, where a nice warm breakfast awaits!

May 9-10th: I spent the days in Damascus, resupplying on food, fixing up my gear and doing laundry. Damascus is a quiet town but the town had a slight buzz about it as everyone was gearing up for Trail Days next weekend.  It's one of the only times I'll be revisiting a town on the trail so I'm excited to see in twice; once as a quaint town (population 800ish) and with the expected 20,000 visitors for Trail Days.

May 11th: I met the ponies today!!!! I'd been hearing about the ponies in Grayson Highlands for some time now but the day finally arrived and was not disappointed. 

May 12-13: I used these days to gain as much distance from Damascus as possible. By the 13th, I was able to make it Atkins, VA where I will catch a ride back for Trail Days in the morning. This way, after the weekend, I will hitch a ride back up to Atkins and hopefully miss the bottleneck of hikers all leaving Damascus at the same time.

-Outro

 

Trail Days May 14th-16th

Trail Days has been described as the Birthday Party for the Appalachian Trail. It's a big festival in the city of Damascus every year to celebrate current and past hikers. Product vendors come to fix broken gear, famous AT hikers come to speak and run seminars, and it's a few days for everyone to relax and recharge. I think the best part is catching up with old friends, some of which are scattered all over the trail and hitch in specifically for the weekend. 

It was amazing to see old friends, some of which I hadn't seen in weeks! So good to see you all again!

I'm excited to get back to the trail and start walking again though!

-Outro

THE NEXT HUNDRED (400 MILES)

May 3rd: I spent the prior night on top of Beauty Spot Gap, an amazing clearing to watch sunrise and sunset from. Just before noon I summited Unaka Mountain at 5180'. On top of the mountain was an amazing spruce forest so dense that you could easily get lost in it. Luckily there was a large group at the campsite the night before so it was easy to follow voices through the trees. 

May 4th: Today brought about a new milestone- Around lunch I stopped at Roan High Knob Shelter, the highest on the trail at 6194'. The (relatively) high elevation meant it was a bit chilly up there so after a quick lunch I was excited to descend Roan. A little ways down the trail was Jane Bald with 360 degree views of the surrounding mountains, included Roan. The other highlight of the day was spending the night at Overmountain Shelter which was an old barn that they rehabbed into a AT shelter. The site, in Yellow Mountain Gap, had amazing views, a great water source and could fit about 30 people. I ended up stringing up my hammock in the upstairs loft with three other hammockers.

May 5th: After flip-flopping across the border a few times I finally left NC for the last time and crossed over into TN. Right before I got into the Mountaineer Shelter for the night, I crossed the 400 mile mark!

 

May 6th: The morning started out a another beautiful day on the trail, but unfortunately the afternoon brought some rain. Luckily, I was able to duck into the Black Bear Hostel to resupply and to wait out the storm. Soon I was back on the trail and came across Laurel Falls, an amazing waterfall with ice cold water to sooth aching feet :)

May 7th: The morning was spent walking around Watauga Lake, a gorgeous site near Hampton, TN. Soon I'll be in Virginia!

-Outro

NEXT STOP ERWIN, TN

Hi everyone,

Thank you so much for all your wonderful comments! They definitely keep me going from day to day.

The service out here has been horrible at best, especially for AT&T users (that's me), but I'll try and keep posting whenever I have the chance. For now here are some photos. I'll try and edit with more info in the future and post some more recent activity!

Hope to post more soon,

Outro

THE SMOKY MOUNTAINS

FONTANA DAM

 

So leaving Fontana Village I heard a rumor that someone was rescued from the Smoky Mountains the prior week for hypothermia. I don't know if it was true but people who know me well, know that I don't do cold weather. My plan was to get through the Smoky Mountains ASAP. Most people resupply for food in Gatlinburg or Davenport (the northern boundary of the Smoky's) but in the interest of time I decided to carry enough food to get me to Hot Springs, about 7 days away. General rule is 1 days’ worth of food should weight 2lbs so that meant I'd be carrying 14lbs of just food to last me until my next resupply. On the trial you learn to eat your heaviest food first. As I left Fontana wearing a t-shirt and shorts my final thought was 'but really, how cold could the Smoky's be...'


Day 1(April 21st): after taking a nero day in Fontana Village I hit the trail around 4pm and hiked into the first camp site about 6 miles away. I met back up with Corn-silk and Caveman as well as the brothers Hammertoe and Simple Soul. It's always nice to camp in good company!


Day 2: tough 17.1 mile day through the mountains but the views were spectacular. Bumped into the Happy Couple again. I've run into them about three or four times this trip. I spent the night at Derek Knob Shelter. When I arrived the shelter was full so I put up my hammock. One downside to hammock camping is that the system isn't suitable for really cold nights. I went to bed wearing every piece of clothing I brought plus additional layers of my top quilt, under quilt and torso-pad. It rained sometime in the night and in woke up in the morning to an ice covered tarp. This was going to be a long few days.


Day 3: I was excited to climb to Clingmans Dome but it was a really weird feeling to see so many tourists when I got there. After being in the woods for a while you get used to only seeing fellow hikers. After Clingmans I passed through Newfound Gap in my way to Icewater Spring Shelter. I rolled in pretty late so I immediately started trying to setup camp. The wind was so strong up there that it ripped my tarp stakes out of the ground. Luckily there was one spot left the shelter so after finding all my stakes I quickly got comfortable in there. The shelter was so full that we were sleeping shoulder to shoulder but to be honest after my 21.3 mile day, I didn't mind. Also more people, more body heat. It only got down to 35 in the shelter the night.


Day 4: this was another long (20.3) mileage day but after the cold from the night before renewed my spirit to get the heck out of the SM. In the morning I visited Charlies Bunion which was breathtaking. I spent the night hammocking at Cosby Knob Shelter but it was over 1,000 feet lower in elevation and I could already feel the difference in temperature.

Day 5: this might be my toughest day yet. I managed to make it out of the Smoky Mountains by midmorning so I was very excited to leave the extreme cold behind. The new challenge of the day was elevation change. I started the day around 5,000 feet above sea level, ended it around 3,000 feet above sea level but climbed and descended a total of 7,750 feet over 17.6 miles for the day. My legs were definitely feeling it that night. I stayed the night at Groundhog Creek Shelter and met two very nice ladies who were section hiking part of the trail. They made ground beef in gravy and mashed potatoes for dinner that night and shared with me! The generosity of people out here is phenomenal. The meal was delicious and very much needed in such a tough day. They also offered snacks to keeps going throughout the next day.


Only two more days until Hot Springs!


-Outro

HIAWASSEE, GA

A few more rainy days in the woods and I made it to Hiawassee. Time for a little R&R and to resupply on food. Then it's time to do laundry at The Top of Georgia Hostel and Hiking Center they give you a pair of scrubs to wear while all your cloths are being washed. No one walking around in their rain gear today! Sir Packs A lot gave some really useful trial tips as well. 

On my way, 

-Outro