Wednesday, September 24, 2008

I made it! Hooray!

How do I feel, you ask? Let's go through some summit pictures:

Exuberant!


Exhausted


Um...come-hither?

Yes, I have made it to the end of the Appalachian Trail and have officially thru-hiked it. I summited Mt. Katahdin yesterday, September 23rd: Exactly six months from my starting date! I have feelings of both extreme accomplishment and confusion as to what I've just done and why. But I think that's normal...I hope.

Right now I am in Millinocket, basking in beginning of an endless line of zero days I have before me. My body feels like it should be hiking right now, but it's going to have to get used to being lazy for a while...a long while. I need a massage.


Oh, and there was the 100 mile wilderness I hiked before Katahdin:



Here are some photos of that remote and freezing experience:


That's Katahdin off in the distance


Very beautiful terrain, but I felt as if I were back in Georgia again. Temperatures dropped below freezing most nights, and again, I was wearing everything I owned in a cinched up sleeping bag. But once I got hiking in the mornings, the cool air felt great!

It really hasn't hit me yet that I'm done. One thing I know I've accomplished is that I've conquered the fate of my trail name. For I am no longer LongShot: the courageous thru-hiker. I am now Logan: the unemployed bum. I'll probably have to do something about that.

Well, that's that. Eventually I'll make it home to Vermont through a series of buses or something. Thanks to everyone for your support and your comments. Your encouragement meant a lot to me in each town along the way, and kept me going! I'm sure I'll see many of you shortly and you can check out/gasp at my beard. That'll be fun. Till then, I'll be sleeping a lot!


And one more thing:
video

Watch this for reference.


Monday, September 15, 2008

The End is Nigh

Just got into Monson today, our last trail town before our big summit. The only thing that stands in our way is the 100-mile wilderness: 100 miles of trail with no towns or major roads (it's actually 115 miles). So I have to buy about a week's worth of food tonight. Can't wait to lug that out tomorrow morning.

But at the end of this treacherous trek, we are rewarded with the tallest mountain in Maine and also, the end of my journey: Mt. Katahdin. All of us are feeling the end, and it is getting nearer and nearer. A sad time for most, but I must admit...I'm ready to be done.
I'm about a week shy of 6 months on trail, and I'm feeling it. I'm ready to rejoin society...if they'll let me. But I'll have to reintroduce myself to your strange ways (you people shower more than once a week?! You must live like kings!) I'll get to drive, eat normal food, wear normal COTTON clothes, start wearing deodorant again... Man, I've been living a strange life.

Anyway, here are some photos:

This one sums up Maine pretty well.



Here we are enjoying one of the many lakes Maine has to offer.

2000 miles, baby!

A nice man with a thick Maine accent ferried us across the Kennebec river


Some sweet trail magic.


So the next time I post, I will have either finished victoriously, or become bedridden in a hospital. That's what it will take to keep me from that summit. Let's see what happens.

Friday, September 12, 2008

HIKR 2000

Just made it into the small town of Caratunk today. Luckily I'm staying some place dry as the rain is pelting down here.

Maine continues to be a great hike. I've seen two moose...at once..in the same pond. That was pretty amazing. The terrain, while still rocky and rooty, is still very beautiful. I think it's the remoteness of the area. The lakes and ponds are untouched by any kind of civilization. It's nice to look across a huge lake and not see any boats or docks or houses.

In other news, we just passed the 2000 mile mark as of yesterday. A very nice milestone. I feel like I've walked 2000 miles. I can't wait until I can walk in the morning without hobbling (hopefully).

I've got some pictures, but this computer is locked away inside a shelf or something. So those will have to wait. I only have one more town stop after this, then it's onto Katahdin. Hopefully, I can update this thing before then, but if not, see you on the other side!

Friday, September 5, 2008

It was the Blurst of Times

Well, I always think that I can get in and out of town without taking a zero, and sometimes I'm right. Today, I am not. I'm sitting here in the Rangeley Free Library, typing away, and not hiking. But that's fine. Maine's been a harsh mistress. I need my rest. Yeah, that's it. Rest. But seriously all of our knees are about to fall apart.

Maine has definitely been beautiful so far, and unlike any other state we've been through. Lot's of roots and rocks and generally difficult terrain, but it wasn't annoying, like Virginia. Maybe the nice, cool weather has something to do with it...

We've all started to talk about life after the hike is over, and the real world is becoming that much closer with every step. I have no idea what I'm going to do. I have no idea how where to go once I summit Katahdin. I guess that's all part of this adventure.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Maine: The Final Frontier

So I did it. I hiked from Georgia to Maine. I've satisfied the requirements of my blog's URL. I can go home now, right?

Wrong! I still have some 266 miles to go until I reach Mt. Katahdin. And if the rest of the Maine is anything like the southern part of the state, I'm in for some tough hiking.
It's not, by the way, but these last few days have been taking a toll on my knees. I just crawled my way through Mahoosuc Notch today--the supposed toughest mile on the whole trail. It was strenuous, but it wasn't as horrible as people made it out to be. It was actually quite fun...negotiating huge boulders that required climbing over or crawling under them...a good way to spend a morning.

I'm now sitting at the computer of the Pine Ellis Hostel in Andover, Maine. I met an elderly woman here who told me she fell in love for the first time in Winooski, Vermont. Only on the trail.

Well August is over, and I'm running out of trail. Bittersweet you say? I say, it hasn't hit me yet.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Photogallery Time

Just rolled into Gorham. I have completed the whites. They were amazing. I'm back at M&M's. I have uploaded photos. Here they are (click to enlarge, photos by Hot Tang):

Here we all are atop Mt. Cube... a rare group shot.


On top of Mt. Moosilauke. This is the only cloudy weather we had during the whites.



Coming down the steep descent of Moosilauke.



Franconia Ridge



More Franconia



A little siesta on the Webster Cliffs



Mt. Washington is in the Background



Work-for-stay at Lakes of the Clouds Hut. Scrubbing walls. We weren't very effective.



The Summit of Mt. Washington.



The Cog Railroad which goes to the summit.



Oh, and after 3 months, I finally caught up to Freefall.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

The Whites

Here is a photo of me atop Mt. Killington in Vermont. But I won't bore you with stories of such petty mountains. I'm in the Whites!

And they have been absolutely...amazing. Nothing else in my thru-hike has compared to these mountains. I'm very glad they arrived at the end of my journey instead of, in the south-bounders' case, the beginning. The whites just dwarf everything else on the trail...literally. As soon as we hit the Franconia Ridge, I knew we were in for a treat. It consisted of three mountains in a row, all above tree-line, on an exposed ridge. Also, the weather was perfect: Sunny and warm, with a light breeze...something very rare in an area known for the worst weather in the world. I summitted Mt. Washington this morning around 8AM, before any of the tourists, with clear skies and a spectacular 360 degree view of New Hampshire and Maine. It was sublime.
I'm sure I'd be singing a much different tune if it we had rain and heavy winds. With all the rocks and exposed ridge-line we would either be slipping down the mountain or blown off it entirely. But I guess south-bounders did it in those conditions, and survived.

The Hut system here has been great as well. Normally, people pay $80-$90 for a night at one of these huts, but thru-hikers can stay for free in exchange for a night (or morning) of work. This has worked for us three times. We get the leftovers from dinner and breakfast, a warm place to stay, and all we have to do is organize a bookshelf or scrub a wall. A good deal.

We've been taking some amazing photos (and even better videos), but I can't post them yet, because we don't have the cable to do so. But hopefully I can get some up here when I get to Gorham, which is only 2 days away.

Right now, I'm sitting here in North Conway, drinking a microbrew, and eating a pint of Ben & Jerry's. An '07 thru-hiker, M&M, has taken Rock, Roll, Hot Tang, and I into her condo for the night, and she is truly a trail angel. Thank you, if you are reading this!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Live Free or Hike

I smell like DEET. The mosquitoes have been on attack-mode lately. But I just arrived at the Hiker's Welcome Hostel in Glencliff, NH, and will soon take a much needed shower and do some much needed laundry.

Glencliff is the last stop before the great White Mountains of New Hampshire. Where the weather is fierce and the elevation is high. We will be hiking a 12 mile stretch above treeline and tackle Mt. Washington where we will climb above 6,000 feet: something not done since Clingman's Dome in North Carolina. If I don't make it back alive...you probably wouldn't find out for a while, since I wouldn't be able to blog about it.

Still hiking with Hot Tang, Earthbound, and Briar. Took 2 zeros in Hanover. Had a great time with the family! Good to see everyone one last time before it's all over. Going to Hit 1800 miles tomorrow. woo hoo!

Monday, August 11, 2008

Left as Rain

Hello from Rutland, VT! I'm sitting in the Rutland Free Library right now, warm and dry: A nice change of pace. The rain has been relentless as many Vermonters reading this now can attest. Each day leaves my shoes and clothes, a soggy mess. But that's the trail for you.

I'm currently staying at the Twelve Tribes hostel here in Rutland above the Back Home Again Cafe. This little religious community (read: cult) is putting us up and feeding us all for a work-for-stay arrangement. And despite the fact the police raided their compound years back on allegations of child abuse, they seem quite nice and I've enjoyed my stay thus far.

In other news, I have less than 500 miles to go at this point, and I can smell the White mountains just around the corner. We have officially diverged from the Long Trail so maybe it will get a little less crowded now that we only have one set of thru-hikers.

Well since I'm wasting precious calories typing, I believe I will stop to gorge myself yet again today. Next stop: Hanover, where I will see the brother and the Uncle (and maybe the 'rents again!).

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

I am Home! (kind of)

First off, here's the picture of me on the Pike:


And here's a more current picture of my return to my Home state:

Yes, I am in Vermont where I'm hiking the A.T. and Long Trail simultaneously. It's good to be home, but does home have to be so muddy? The Long Trail has been one giant mud puddle so far, and with all this rain I don't think the remainder will be any different.

We have been hammered lately. Packing up in the rain this morning was not too fun at all, but we still pulled a 21 mile day to get into Manchester Ctr. Where we are staying at the Green Mountain House: A wonderful hiker hostel with all the frills, including free soda (like nectar to me).

So I'm happy to be dry for a night, but I'm sure that won't last long, looking at the weather forecast. Welcome to Vermud!


Also, I hope you get back on the trail, Blaze. Hang in there!

Friday, August 1, 2008

New England!

Hello from Dalton, MA. Taking a zero day here at a place called The Birdcage: This guy Rob lets hikers stay at his place, does their laundry and shuttles them around to wherever they need. The trail definitely needs more guys like him.

Anyway, Massachusetts has been a good hike so far. It's probably the wettest state I've been in yet as it seems like there is a stream, pond, river, lake, or swamp every mile. So we haven't had to worry about water too much. But this also means we have been attacked by mosquitoes pretty steadily, and thus can't take too many extended breaks during the day...which is probably for the best since the days are starting to get shorter again.

I'd show you all a photo of me on the foot bridge that crosses the Mass Pike, but the strict old librarians here won't let you plug anything into the PCs. I'm afraid to accidentally go over my allotted hour for fear of being beheaded.

We've begun to run into our first batch of SOBOs¹ recently, who bring stories from the north and take up our hostel space. But it's neat to think that they have just hiked what I'm about to. It makes it a little more real and much more imaginable.

Only 30 or so miles until Vermont! Can't wait.



¹ Thru-hikers hiking southbound (ie. from Maine to Georgia).

Thursday, July 24, 2008

It's up to you New York

Apparently, I'm getting some sweet blogspam (this thing must be getting popular), so I'm hear by enacting a verification dealy to the comment system. I know it's annoying, but it has to be done.

I'm now in Pawling, NY taking a much needed zero to let my feet heal. I've been hiking with Briar, Earthbound, and Hot Tang, who you may remember from Georgia. We've been pushing 20 mile days here now since PA, and am definitely feeling it. But I'm only 20 miles from Connecticut, and that state's a breeze, so I'll be in MA by the beginning of next week! Hard to believe. So all ya'll Massachussetians should come out to see me (if driving to the Berkshires is your thing.)

A quick little story: One morning back in NY I was pumping water quietly from a stream nearby a shelter. All of a sudden I heard a rustling noise from behind me. I turn to look and see this huge head of a black bear calmly staring in my directing about 40 feet away. So I grab my gear and bust a move back into camp. The bear ends up following me. So now I get everyone's attention and they're all looking this bear that begins circling the perimeter of our tents. It was cool to see, but he was so unafraid! We eventually had to bang poles together and yell, but even that did little to scare him off. Earthbound and Briar actually had to move toward him while doing so and that eventually did the trick. Our guess was that he just wanted to pillage our camp for leftover food. Reasonable, but unsettling.

On to New England!

Friday, July 18, 2008

Some R&R (half a day's worth)

Just spent a great afternoon with my parents yesterday in Port Jervis, NY, right on the New Jersey border. I got to eat at a nice restaurant and sleep in a nice bed. But today, it's back to the grind. I've got miles to hike and sights to see. I should be in New York soon.

Dad and I (yes, it's real):


Oh and here are the rocks I've been stepping over all this time:
These little ones go on for miles, but the bigger ones are less frequent, but more fun:

And this guy who thru-hiked in '07 stole my URL:

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

PA Rocked My Socks Off

Hello from Delaware Water Gap, PA: right on the New Jersey border... which means Pennsylvania is no more! The jagged knife-edged rocks that littered the trail and tore up my feet will be a thing of the past. If this PC wasn't running Windows 2000 and I could upload pictures, I would show you what I'm talking about. But it's just been rocks day in and day out, with little in the way of relief. To make matters worse, it rained the other day, so I had to deal with wet rocks. If I didn't have my hiking poles, I'd be missing my two front teeth right now.

But now that I'm entering NJ, rocks will turn into bears as some New Jersey counties have 1 per square mile (according to my book). That means that either I'll have some cool pictures or...something else. Anyway I'm excited for NJ because the 'rents will be paying a visit when I hit High Point State park. Can't wait to feel somewhat at home again!

Anyway, I should sign off now that people are waiting to use this... oh, also, I was able to check out a Cabela's store. Largest Hunting and fishing outfitter in the U.S.... both amazing and frightening.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

I'm really full right now

Man, I've been cruising lately. Just made a big dent in PA, and am now in a little town called Duncannon. But more importantly, by crossing the mason-dixon line, I've returned to the North! Although you wouldn't know it around here from the confederate flags flying every which way. I have seen some Amish people already. That was cool.

So now, I've passed the official half-way point, and to celebrate, I participated in the "Half-Gallon Challenge." In Pine Grove Furnace State park, there is a little general store that sells half-gallons of ice cream, and as a rite of passage, each through hiker attempts to consumes one of these monstrosities. Some people try and fail; others don't even attempt at all. But I succeeded. I finished a half-gallon of Cherry Jubilee ice cream in 23 minutes (that's 1 pint every 6 minutes!). I may have suffered a pretty heavy food-coma afterward, as well as some third degree freezer burns on the roof of my mouth, but it was worth it! I even got a little wooden spoon that says I'm part of the Half-gallon club. w00t.

Well, I'm moving my way on up. Not looking forward to the upcoming rocks that PA is known for. Gonna rip up my feet something fierce.


Oh yeah,
Happy Birthday, Mom!

Saturday, June 28, 2008

A Civil War Celebration!

Virginia is over! Forget the fact I've walked 1000 miles:

Forget that I made it to Harper's Ferry, the "halfway" point of the trail. Virginia is no more. The state constituting 25% of the trail has been hiked. Don't get me wrong, I liked hiking it. But it went on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on.

Actually, trumping all of these milestones, is it bad that I'm most excited that I'm using Firefox 3.0, and that it's spectacular? I can't escape.

But yep, I'm in Maryland. And in two days I'll be in PA. And that will be my residence for the next 230 miles. On to the next.

Here's another Gem. This was posted on the doorway to a restaurant near the trail:

This isn't directed toward the hiker-trash...is it?

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The results are in...

Well, I finished the Shenandoah's. Took 5 and 1/2 days to do 107 miles. Not a bad pace if I do say so myself.
So I've broken up "The Band," as Mr. George has dubbed us, and am no longer hiking with Snap and snack. I've actually reconnected with some trail-buddies from a month or two ago: Brahma Bull, Sweet Potato, and The Thinker. Here we are: (me, Thinker, Brahma, and Fleur and Buck (a really nice Nova Scotian couple I met way back in Georgia))
So now I'm staying at Sweet Potato's aunt's house in Manassas, VA. Good to have connections. Thanks J.J. and Don, if you are reading this!

Well, I've tallied all the results from each category from my hike, but first, a big thanks to all who donated to the Shenandoah SMA cause. I'm sure everyone out in California appreciates it during this difficult time. My thoughts are with them.

Here's what I ended up with:

Rainy Days: A whopping 4. Each of which was the result of a thunderstorm at some point during the day. It will be perfectly clear one moment, then you will see something like this in the distance:
...and it's coming you're way.

Spills: Just 1. And it was during (you guessed it) a storm. I guess it looked pretty bad from the perspective of the people behind me, but luckily, I didn't injure myself. This was a nasty storm too...Full of lightning and grape-sized hail. The trail turned into a raging river, and here we are, standing in the middle of it, holding metal poles. A good adrenaline rush, but a bad place to be. Here's a picture:
That stuff stung.

Snakes Seen: 1. Small one. On the road. Dead. Still counts.

Liters of water pumped: 17. A bit less than normal since there was so much tap water along the way.

Comments on my hiking skirt: 1. Some guy described it as being "all decked out." I think it was a compliment.

Money spent on snacks: $40.89. Food was wicked expensive, but since it all beat trail food, we indulged.

LongShot specials:

Pictures of bears: Zero. I ended up seeing 3 total...all were cubs. So naturally I didn't hang around too long to find mama-bear on the other side of me. But once one of the cubs saw me, he scooted up a tree so fast, he must have thought I was going to devour him. Quite the site.

Celebrities seen: does some-band-nobody's-ever-heard-of-playing-at-the-lodge-one-night count?

So the site to donate again is https://secure.groundspring.org/dn/index.php?aid=21710
Just put whatever the amount came to in the "other" field and fill out the rest of the form. Thanks again to all who donate.

Well, I'm back on the trail early tomorrow morning, and then it's only 2.5 days until Harper's Ferry: the psychological halfway point of the trail (the real one's about 50 miles or so north of there). But by then I'll have hiked 1000 miles! A milestone if there ever was one. So until then...


actually until then you should check out Brahma Bull and Sweet Potato's blog
which I'm sure has stuff I've left out on this post.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Skylar's Fight

On Friday, June 20th, 2008, Skylar Bahrenburg passed away in Sonoma CA. I now have a new determination to continue to raise funds for a cure in his memory. My thanks to all who are generously participating in this effort.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Help me fight SMA all the way from The Shenandoahs

This is my cousin Skylar:


He is 7 years old, lives in Sonoma, CA and was born with with Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA). SMA is a genetic disease that weakens the voluntary muscles associated with walking, crawling and swallowing. More info can be found here: http://www.fsma.org/

There is no current treatment for this disease, which is often fatal. So donations toward SMA research are the best way to combat it, and hopefully one day, find a cure.

This is where my hike fits in. Starting Thursday the 19th, I will be hiking through the Shenandoah National Park here in Virginia. During that time, with your help, I will be fundraising online for SMA.

Here's how it'll work: donations will be category-based, in that you donate a certain amount of money for every time something occurs in that category. I'll list them now, and once this part of my hike is over, I'll report back and let you know how many of each category happened.

Here they are:

Rainy Days. Donate an amount of money for each rainy day you think I'll have. The whole park should take me about 5-6 days to complete, and if it rains at all during the day, I'll count it as a rainy one.

Spills. How many times will I take a digger? I'd say I'm averaging about one spill every two or three days. This will be, of course, amplified by any rainy weather.

Snakes seen. I've seen a lot of black snakes (probably one every three or four days), and a couple days ago, I almost stepped on rattler. That would have been a fun day of limping and paralysis.

Liters of water pumped. I'd say I pump about 4 or 5 liters per day. More if it's hot.

Comments on my hiking skirt. Apparently it's a skirt, not a kilt. Whatever. But every so often I get questions from day-hikers about it, and it's level of comfort.

Money spent on snacks inside the park. I'm planning on packing out 5 days worth of food for the hike, but apparently there are several little stores and snack bars throughout the park that I know will tempt me with their hot, fresh food. So basically, you'd donate what I'll spend (I'll try to limit it though).

Longshots (heh heh):
These things are pretty unlikely, so you might as well bet the big bucks.

Pictures of bears. Many other thru-hikers have seen bears so far. I have not. But I've been told that if there's any place to see one, it's the Shenandoah's. So there's a decent chance of that happening, but could I snap a photo off in time? You be the judge. (I'd definitely post the photo).

Celebrities seen. This totally won't happen. So I think you should bet the farm.

-----

So place your bets in the comments section of this post, or if you prefer to do it privately, send me an email at ljoecks@gmail.com. You can give to more than one category, and more than one person can give to the same category. Please donate what you can!

example:
longshotfan said: I'll give $1 for each liter you pump, and I'll match whatever you spend on snacks inside the park.

If you aren't the betting type, you can always donate per mile (there are 107 of them), or even give a flat amount. It's up to you.

The donation site is https://secure.groundspring.org/dn/index.php?aid=21710
I'll repost the link at the end of the hike.
Again, I'll keep track of all the categories as I hike, then tally them up at the end, and give you the totals (I should be done around the 23rd or 24th). You'll then write in whatever the donation comes to in the "other" box on the donation site.

Sorry if this is a bit complicated. If you have any questions, email me (ljoecks@gmail.com).

----

By the way, I'm staying with my cousin Chris, his wife Karen, and their daughter Isabel in Richmond for a couple days to get some much needed rest. A big thank you to them for that! Also, I get to see game 6!

Double also, I think it's funny that everyone is so aghast at the sight of my beard. It's wicked common out here!

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Dogs and Spoons

Ok, picture time. But first:

Man, it's been wicked hot lately... 80s 90s everyday, unbelievably humid... I'm dripping with sweat within minutes of hiking. But I've been swimming in streams and napping in shade when I can. So goes the hike.

Also, I just had to be away from a tv during a Celtics - Lakers finals. A CELTICS LAKERS FINALS! Such a thing does not come along every year. I heard Boston won game 1, and I even be able to catch game 2 tonight if my hotel roomies let me. I also think Bird and Magic should coach their respective teams just for this series, so that they can have one final showdown.

So here are some pictures:

Me on top of a mountain coming out of Pearisburg:
The resulting sunset on that mountain:
This is Tabba, an english sheepdog. His owner, Gouda, found him abandoned at trail days with a million ticks all over him. So he took him to the vet, shaved him, and they now hike the trail together.
A dog like that you have to feed every day.


On top of Dragon's tooth:

Hitch-hiking:
(the sign says "WON'T KILT U")

Oh yeah, I finally made my spoon:
Can I eat Full Quiver now?

Monday, June 2, 2008

There's a Walmart in this Town!

This audio clip sums up how I feel while staying in town:


Aladdin's soliloquy is apt for the hiker as well as the street-rat.

So we got into Pearisburg a couple days ago and took a zero yesterday as it poured. We seem to time the zeros just right so that we skip that one day of rain.
The terrain continues to be on the easy side as we just pulled a 23 miler to get into town. Not many views, but easy.
At mile-marker 624.0, I've completed part 1 of Virginia (according to my book), so there's only 3 more to go! In other news, Virginia is a wicked long state.
I'm finally able to send my cold weather gear home thought, as we enter the summer months here down south. Hopefully that will reduce my pack-weight somewhat.

I've also become separated from Waffle, Just Mike, and Tea-bag, and am now hiking with two girls named Snap and Snack. Great people just seem to be a day away here on the trail.

Well, it looks like we have a nice, sunny day of hiking ahead of us. 'Till next time!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Moving right along.

Hello everyone from Bland, VA, where the name of the town is also its best adjective. Well, at least they have a library with computers....and a supermarket.

As it is raining, and one of the members of my new party is sick, we've decided to take a zero day. We figure it will help digest all the Dairy Queen we ate last night (mmm...blizzard).
Speaking of food, I just had a fantastic meal from yet another generous church. The Methodists, who were conspicuously quiet during Trail Days, are giving the Baptists a run for their money with their all-you-can-eat breakfast, including french toast, potato casserole, sausage, oj, coffee biscuits, and a little good bag with moon pies and granola bars. It was spectacular. The Baptists are still in the lead, however, in this winner-take-all hiker help-out, but with more strong efforts like these, the Methodists can easily pull ahead.

So for the last few days I've been hiking with 3 other guys: Waffle, Tea-bag (an unfortunate trail-name) and Just Mike (an Aussie). We've been pulling out the big guns lately, never dropping below a 15 mile day, with a 22 mile hike into town last night. So we're moving right along.

The next big town is Pearisburg, where I'm sure you'll hear from me yet again!

Saturday, May 24, 2008

And I would walk 500 miles...

Aw man, I'm missing the Celtics in the Eastern Conference finals! They're going on right now, and I'm missing them!!
Oh well, they'll probably just end up losing...losers.

I just passed the 500 mile marker here and Virginia, and I'm still going strong. I'm staying at the church hostel here in Troutdale and the hospitality has been amazing yet again. The first Baptists really love hikers... much more than those second Baptists (I just googled the second Baptists, and they exist! I guess that makes sense).
Anyway, they had a huge cookout last night with burgers, dogs, salads, desserts... a lot of food. The only thing they asked in return was that we hear about what a cool cat Jesus was/is, and that we should try to find him on the trail. I'll see what I can do....

Hiking solo has been interesting. Although I'm on my own, I'm not really alone, exactly. I've been seeing a lot of the same people each night at the shelters, so I've been hiking with them on and off.
But being on my own schedule is pretty liberating. No more waiting for people to catch up, or catching up to people waiting for me. If I want to stop where I am and setup my tent for the night, I can. But Freefall, Spidey, No-amp, if you're reading this, it is not personal. It's just a nice change of pace to be alone.

Well, it looks like the sun is shining. Time to get back on the trail!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Over and Out

Well I just rolled into Damascus last night... What a neat little trail-town. Seems to have everything a hiker needs: hostels, laundry, grocery stores... Everyone's real friendly too. There also seems to be remnants of some sort of festival strewn about town. Wonder what that was all about. Oh well.
Anyway, I'm here and my shin feels fine. Actually, I put in a 25-miler last night, and while I was sore, this time it was my whole body as opposed to a small part of my leg.

So now I'm healthy and ready to hike... except that all my hiking buddies have since pushed on and are miles ahead of me. I may catch up though, we'll see. But for now I'm allll alone. I think I'll like it though--especially since I have my own schedule and can pretty much do any distance and stop anywhere I like. Also, I have my MP3 player now (thanks dad).

So now I'm leaving Damascus for real... no seriously.

Here is a photo of me that was just taken today:

Link to larger image

...and yes, that's a kilt.

Friday, May 16, 2008

News?

So I just saw the doctor... AKA the special bone and muscle doctor... AKA the orthopedic surgeon. And the wealth of information I expected, for some reason, came to be the same stuff I've known all along: It's either a muscle sprain or a small stress fracture. He did, however, tell me that either one will heal given enough down-time...which is all I really needed to hear. But it just seems like the more doctors I see (for any problem), the more confident I feel in my own diagnoses.

So now, my plan is to get a ride back to Watauga Lake where I left off a couple weeks ago. It'll be about a 2-day hike from there back (read: forward) to Damascus, but I figure that will be a good stretch of trail to test out the shin. If there are any problems, I'll be in a town I know all too well before long.

Trail days have continued to go well. There seems to be a lot more going on now that the vendors have set up shop. I plan on getting my poles cleaned and tuned up at the Leki tent today. For free. But I'll have to make an effort not to walk around too much...if possible.

Hopefully next time I write, it will be miles away from here.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

These boots are made for...something

Well trail days is starting to pick up and hikers are filling out the town. Also, I can walk! I walked with my pack yesterday and felt fine for the most part. Granted I only went a couple miles and the terrain was a sidewalk, but I consider this a small victory.
I almost don't feel like going to my appointment tomorrow, but I will just in case it's still something serious.

The First Baptist church here in town is putting on a free dinner, so I just got my ticket for that. I'm pretty sure a hiker could stay in town this weekend and not spend a penny on food. So many people want to feed us! All sorts of vendors will be setting up today too, fixing pretty much any gear problems we may have. Should be a good time.

Other stuff:

Restaurants I want up north:
Shoney's
Waffle house
Any place that serves biscuits and gravy

Signs I've come across:
Slippary when wet
Shirt and Shoes Appreciated (not required--appreciated)

On one of the dryers in a laundromat:
Some gets hotter than others

Friday, May 9, 2008

Updates and Illustrates

Well, I went to see the doctor today, but it turns out I'm really no better off than I was before. I explained what happened with my shin, and she came to the same basic conclusion: It's either a sprained muscle or possibly a stress fracture...great. But she did give me some high-strength ibuprofen to reduce the inflammation even more. So if it is a muscle problem, it will probably heal faster.


She also set me up an appointment at an orthopedic center. The good news, is they will probably tell me what exactly is going on. The bad news is that it's scheduled for next Friday. So guess where I'm hanging out for the next week? Good old Damascus, VA. But on the bright side, trail days starts up tomorrow, so at least I won't be too bored. I might even volunteer... if they take me.


I scrounged up some more pictures taken by Twinkletoes.


Here is a moment on the Smoky Mountains, right before our great Gatlinburg getaway:

Here I am, beating a 12-year-old in chess back in Hiawassee. I felt pretty good about that:

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Hiking's Greatest Injuries

So here's the deal:

This past Sunday I was hiking with Freefall into the Kincora hostel in Dennis Cove, Tennessee. We were doing a fifteen mile day averaging almost 3 miles an hour. Coming into the hostel, I started to feel a pain in my shin. I wrote it off as an end-of-the-day soreness and thought nothing more of it after we arrived.
On Monday, we set out to hike another fifteen miler or so. I felt ok going up the first mountain, but coming down, the pain in my shin was back and more intense than ever. It became so acute, I was using my poles as crutches. After getting to the bottom, I had to call the hostel, and ended up getting a ride back and spending the night.
On Tuesday, I knew I'd be shored up for a while. I could barely walk, let alone hike. Long story short, I spent the next few days there, just sitting around. It was pretty frustrating watching a bunch of other hikers coming and going, and all the while, I'll I could do was lay in bed.
Finally, today (Thursday), I managed to score a ride into Damascus from FreeFall's mom (if you're reading this, thank you!). So now I'm hanging out with them at a B&B. And tomorrow, the plan is to get to the local medical center have someone check it out. Hopefully, it ends up just being a shin-splint, but there is the off-chance that it could be a stress-fracture, which would mean I'm basically done.
In any case I just yellow-blazed¹ it for 40 or so miles. But I think special considerations are made for injured hikers, so please don't tar and feather me.

So that's where I stand now. I'll try to update again after I get word from the doctor. Wish me luck!



¹ Skipped ahead. i.e. did not hike


p.s. Here is a picture of our first day. All of us find it quite funny

(click image to enlarge)

Monday, April 28, 2008

Visual Aids

Man, I said I wouldn't zero at Erwin, but the vortex (aka the group of people I'm hiking with) has sucked me in yet again. I'm currently writing from Uncle Johnny's Hostel in Tennessee, where it has been raining pretty steadily today. We got in last night after a 21+ mile day (new record!), and we were planning on hiking on today, but the rain coupled with our sore feet made us decide otherwise. But we're bunking with a bunch of cool people, so it should be a good time.
Some new hikers in our group:

Link to larger image

(top row: hollar, freefall, pixie poop, crabby. middle: Long-Shot, Brahma Bull, Sweet Potato, Chewy, Bert. guy with dog: muffin paste).

This was taken after eating the undisputed best trail magic thus far. These kind folks treated us to a Belgian waffle with whipped cream and strawberries, followed by homemade beef-stew, ending with a choice of dessert (brownie sundae, banana split, apple crisp, or cherry cobbler). All for free. It was amazing to say the least. Of course the books about god showed up at the end of the meal, but the couple wasn't pushy at all about us taking them. So a good deal all-around.

Here's picture of another friend we made along the trail:


Link to larger image

He's a five-foot long rat-snake who showed up in our shelter about mid-afternoon. We named him Sherman. Ya'll still want to hike this thing?


Here he is cozying up to our sleeping bags:


Fun times.
Well my goal now is to get out of Erwin tomorrow with less than 47 pounds on my back. That was the weight of my pack leaving Hot Springs. A lot of fun to lug up a mountain.
Till next time!
- Long Shot