Roads Rivers and Trails

Dream. Plan. Live.

Tag Archives: thru hike


Reflection on a Thru-hike

One Year Reflection
I keep my eyes on the calendar, watching the days move by and watching October 11 creep closer and closer. A day that is inscribed in my memory just as much as any birthday or holiday, an occasion I can’t forget. When the calendar reaches October 11 this year, It will have been one year since I completed my northbound Appalachian Trail thru hike.
I’m not sure what emotion to feel as I think about my one year trailversary approaching. A part of me is excited to celebrate that one year mark, but more than that I’m feeling the post trail depression that I had fought so hard in those first few months after the hike creep back into my life. I’m reluctant to admit that I am one year separated from the trail, that I haven’t hitchhiked into town, eaten an absurd amount of Honey Buns, or slept in a mouse infested shelter for a full year.
Lately the trail has been on my mind more than usual, scrolling through the pictures I took a year ago and reminiscing on those genuine experiences. Not a day has gone by since I finished that I haven’t thought about the AT, the mountains I climbed, people I met, experiences I had that have shaped who I am and who I will be. But I’ve been spending more time than usual thinking about the trail as October 11 approaches. I miss the trail, I miss my trail family, I miss everything about the experience, but I’m also realizing that I can’t dwell in the past forever. At some point I need to look to the future. The trail will always be a part of my life, but I need to make it part of my future and not my past.
My first year off trail was a year of remembering, but I’m going to make my second a year of learning. The trail changed me in more ways than I realize yet, and in this second year off trail I’m going to learn how the trail has changed me and how I can utilize the lessons I learned in those 5 months for the rest of my life.
Any thru hiker will tell you that the hike changed them, but ask them how and it becomes difficult to pinpoint exactly. I know that I came off the trail more mature, more independent, more responsible. The trail deepened my appreciation for nature and instilled a whole new set of passions in me. Because of my experiences on the AT, I’ve become an obsessive backpacker, developed growing interests in climbing and kayaking, and landed every hiker’s dream job as a part time worker and full time gear junkie at RRT. Beyond that, I know that the trail changed my personality, impacted my beliefs, influenced my perceptions on the world, but I can’t put into words how it did.
I look back on the trail and think about where I was one year ago. One year ago today, the day I’m writing this, I was crossing Moxie Bald Mountain in Maine, camping beside the Piscataquis River and staring at the reflections of colorful trees in the water. I think about who I was then, and who I am now. One year ago, I never would’ve imagined where I would be today. I knew that I would be a first year student at Ohio State, but I couldn’t have known the friendships I would make or the experiences I would have here. And there is no way to know what experiences I will have in the future. But I can look to the future, and know that the AT will be part of my future, the lessons I learned on my hike will be used in college and beyond.
I’d be lying if I said thinking about the AT doesn’t bring tears to my eyes sometimes, that writing this didn’t bring tears to my eyes. I miss spending my days climbing up and down mountains with Archer and Snakebait and No Way, spending evening playing cards with Love and Ditto. I can never go back to those times, but when I start to get stir crazy from being in a city too long, I can always take a quick weekend trip down to the mountains or plan another thru hike. I know that in a year or two I might be on the John Muir Trail, and maybe a few years after that hiking from Mexico to Canada along the Pacific Crest Trail. There is always another trail to hike, and with each new trail, as with the AT, there are lessons to be learned and things to experience that will change your life.
That is the essence of a thru hike. It is a journey, a long one, that leads to self discovery. A journey that doesn’t end on top of Mt. Katahdin or on a wooded summit in Georgia. Many people hike the trail simply to learn about themselves, to rethink their lives and become a new person. Whatever your reasons for a thru hike, you will come away different, no matter how far you make it. And if you are thinking about hiking the AT, or any other long trail, I can’t recommend it enough. It is an experience that will test you in every way possible, but it is an experience that you will love and will not regret, an experience you will learn so much from. The trail is unbelievably difficult, both mentally and physically, but the journey is enjoyable every step of the way.
If you are thinking about doing something, especially a thru hike, don’t only ask yourself if the end justifies the means. If that is all you ask, the answer will be no. Also ask yourself if the means justifies the end. And for that, the answer should be yes. For it is the journey that is the reward, the final destination merely a byproduct of that journey. If you cannot enjoy the means of achieving your goal, is the goal really worth striving for?

The Best Trail Town

The Milford Trail Junction
Written by: Bryan Wolf

What is a trail town? I found this definition online; “A Trail Town is a destination along a long-distance trail or adjacent to an extensive trail system. Whether the trail is a hiking trail, water trail or rail trail, users can venture from the path to explore the unique scenery, commerce and heritage that each trail town has to offer.”  (elcr.org)

Milford Ohio fits the above definition as well or better than any town could. We are in fact the epitome of a trail town. We are home to over 22,000 miles of long distance hiking trail as the biggest trail junction in the United States. We are home to a “rails to trails” program that connects cities more than 70 miles apart. We are home to a National Scenic River that has year-round recreational opportunities. Lastly, we are home to a city that dates back to 1788 and boast unique shopping and dining experiences.

As an outfitter we hope that RRT adds to the qualifications, that we bring additional excitement and attract and inspire more recreational use around the city and that we support users of our trails and river. But we cannot take credit for a single aspect that has built the outstanding resume that you see above. What we are proud of is that we settled in this city because we want to be part of this trail town, and because we recognized it’s potential.

Every year we are lucky to meet and share in the experience of people walking one of three trails across the country, or around the entire state of Ohio. Every day we are lucky to personally enjoy and be immersed in the abundant recreation provided by the Little Miami Scenic Trail and River. Be it by foot, wheels, paddle, or pogo stick, this city ties it all together.

Junction mapThere are a lot of cogs in the trail town system that make us who we are. The over half a dozen canoe and kayak liveries that operate in and around Milford are a big part of that machine. You see the Little Miami River isn’t a one shot or one season river. This is part of the reason why Cincinnati is the self-proclaimed paddle capital. This is why we have the largest and strongest paddling groups in the country. Not because we have short term destination whitewater, but because we have year round beauty and access that is beginner friendly and harnesses the passion of the sport.

One of these great canoe and kayak liveries is Loveland Canoe and Kayak, who operates both out of Loveland and Milford. Owner Mark Bersani had this to say about the Little Miami; “We are fortunate to have one of nature’s best playgrounds right in our backyard.  I love the Little Miami River because of its incredible beauty, rich history, abundant wildlife and accessibility.  It provides awesome recreational opportunities for paddlers, anglers, nature lovers and explorers alike.  When you spend time on the river you can feel the stress of the day melt away as you take in the inspiring scenery and fresh air.”

I reached out to Mark to get some facts, because what good is my nostalgia without facts? The numbers blew me away! In one year Mark will personally put about 16,000 people on the Little Miami River! This is local love right there, we aren’t talking about tourists from other cities. We are talking about a town and its love for the river. Furthermore he added that amongst the half dozen other liveries they would total about 100,000 people per year on the river!

089_LittleMiamiFellas_5-26-15With a healthy and frequented river, so grows the city. This isn’t your grandma’s Milford anymore, although Grandma is still welcome and we love her dearly. In the past five years we have seen the city transform from half empty to overflowing. From a shopping and dining perspective Milford is blowing up, and if you’ve not been here in sometime then you have been missing out. Downtown Milford hosts festivals, has a nature preserve, and even riverside camping. The city grows everyday making it more livable, more shop-able, and more fun.

This year Milford has the opportunity to be part of Outside Magazine’s “Best Towns” competition as we compete to be the best “River Town”. Just having the nomination puts us as one of only sixteen cities to be voted on! So I ask you to please share this, to please vote, and to please spread the word. But also be proud, because if Milford is your city than you should know that it goes toe to toe with cities of a much larger reputation; like that of Bend Oregon, St. Louis Missouri , Charlotte North Carolina, the Appalachian Trails Harpers Ferry in West Virginia, and even Portland Oregon.

Click here to vote now (open until 4/29/16)

If you are unfamiliar with the vast trail town resume I’ve mentioned please check it out. You can find the breakdown of all 22,000 miles of trails that cut right thru Milford on the cities website and the link provided at the end of the article. Special thanks to Mark, visit him in Loveland or Milford (lovelandcanoe.com // 513-683-4611).

Click here for Trail Junction details

Click here for Little Miami River Safety

Return of the SLOBO: Really Good at Walking

Read the first article in the Return of the SLOBO series, 799 Zero Days Later

I think that I cannot preserve my health and spirits unless I spend four hours a day at least…sauntering through the woods and over the hills and fields absolutely free from all worldy engagements.” – Henry David Thoreau, Walking

When people ask me “What was it like hiking the Appalachian Trail?”, I normally space out for a few minutes, stare into the ever-deepening hole of my memory and watch as fleeting images pass of those free days in the hills, drinking fresh spring water, laughing with new friends around a rustic shelter at night, and sitting on a mountain summit, spirit emboldened, knowing that the day would bring only more beauty.

And then my brain kicks sentiment out on its butt and I recall the reality of chronically sore knees, swollen feet, cracked toenails, ravenous hunger, blood, sweat, mud, rain, rain, rain, and waking up in my own filth once again, knowing that the day would bring only more pain.

When I come out of my trance, if the person is still there, I answer with a smile and something like, “Well, I got really good at walking.”

It sounds snarky, but it’s true. When you start out to do a long distance hike, no matter what trailbald you are setting out on or how much past experience you have, your mind cannot help but to romanticize the prospect of spending all day, everyday trekking through the woods. It just sounds so peaceful, doesn’t it? As if blue birds should be greeting you every morning upon waking with a song and a pancake breakfast. On the other hand, when you are deep into it, caught up in making miles and pushing yourself to your limit, you might forget to stop and take in the view or to appreciate a gang of frogs burping out a back country symphony as you’re trying to sleep. There is, as in all things, a balance to be struck and despite hardship and despite joy, at the end of every day, there is one thing that is always true on a hike: You get really good at walking.

Walking all day, over rocks and roots, up and down mountains, through streams and over fields, is not a simple as it sounds. Unless you already live in a rugged area, most of us don’t spend our days staring at our feet, watching every step, and varying our gait to match the lay of the land, avoiding slippery roots and sharp rock edges. Most of us walk on nice even floors, convenient sidewalks, and maybe even nicely groomed trails in the local park and never have to think about where our feet are going to land. You can count your steps-per-day in the city, but this will not translate to steps on the AT. Not really. Not without a pack on your back, sweat in your eyes, sore feet, exhausted muscles, and no prospect of a clean bed for days.

I learned this the hard wamainey. In late 2012, knowing that I was to leave for the trail in 6 months, I began to train (without actually researching what training I should be doing.) So I started trail-running, climbing steps, doing squats and push-ups, and tried to walk everywhere I went. I went on shake-down hikes and made sure that my bag fit properly and that I had everything I needed (and more, it turned out.) When the time came to fly to Maine, I was feeling better than I had in years. I had lost some weight, gained some muscle, and saw my endurance more than double. When people noticed, I always told them, with pride in my voice, that I was training for the AT.

Skip to June and see me at Thoreau Springs, just having climbed to the tableland of Mt. Katahdin, only a short 4 miles in, with over a mile left to the summit and 5 more back to camp after that, sitting on a rock, waiting for my legs to start working again, hoping that they would come around before the lightning storms rolled in. As a south-bounder, you don’t technically start the AT until you reach the summit of Katahdin. I was beat and I was still on the approach hike.

Had I not trained hard enough? No doubt that I hadn’t. Did I know what I was getting myself into? Of course not. Was my body ready for the test of climbing mountains everyday? No. Not yet. Then came the most important moment on the trail for me: I snacked, I rested, I hydracrawlerted, and I got to my feet and I walked (slowly) the last mile to the summit. My lovely partner, Jubilee, was there waiting for me, having passed me up at some point. We took our customary summit photos, looked off into the wilderness below that was to be our new home, and started hiking back to camp before the weather turned. This would be the first of many of these moments – moments where I felt drained, out of my element, and daunted by the task ahead. Call it stubbornness or call it willpower, but there is something inside that does not listen to the aching of our bodies and ignores the cries of our emotions. This is what we must train, I have decided.

You’ll hear this “secret” spoken of in any reliable AT prep article, but it bears repeating: there is no true way to prepare for hiking everyday except for hiking everyday. For most of us, this is not easy to accomplish in our modern lives. However, the truth of the statement stands. This time around, I’m taking this advice to heart. And it won’t be easy, but neither is hiking the AT.

As I write this, I once again have 6 months until I leave for the trail to complete the final leg that I failed to hike the first time around: Shenandoah Nat’l Park, VA to Springer Mountain, GA. The time has come once again to get these bones ready for a long ramble. And I’m going to do it by hiking. I believe that one cannot truly learn by any method but doing, especially in the realm of the physical. This past weekend, I strapped on my pack, loaded in more weight than I will be carrying on the AT, headed out into the snow and frigid winds, and climbed some ridges at Red River Gorge. Not many, but it was a start. I felt the old, familiar pains and groans and with it came a sense of peace. It was like my body welcomed back the burden of the pack and my legs started to strengthen just bit at the mere hint of going back out on the trail.

So as I finish the longshotlast 900 odd miles of the AT, my goal is to hike 100 miles a week after the first few reconditioning weeks. For now, at home, I will start even slower to build up to this goal. I will hike, with my pack at or above trail weight, 30 miles per week, whether it be over a couple of long days or a series of short hikes, on top of the squats and exercises that are my routine. When this becomes easy, I will add miles.  And so on. At some point this summer, I will take 5 days and head off into the mountains to see the state of my legs.

From here on out, when I have the opportunity and the time, instead of settling for anything less, I will have my pack on and I will be moving. Let this be a warning to my friends: if you want to see me on my days off for the next few months, you might want to check out the local trails.

The time has come to get really good at walking again.

 

 

 

Previous Article     RETURN OF THE SLOBO    Next Article

An Introduction to the AT

An Introduction to the AT

By: Bryan “Ice Man” Wolf

SOBO 06’/07’

I’ve heard it spoken of as romantic, miserable, magical, adventurous, life changing, and testing. I’ve spoken to those who have dreamt of the experience forever and those that have experienced it with little to no previous knowledge of its existence at all. In journals and books it is a place of community as much as it is a physical journey. Now it is even portrayed as a place of great comic relief on the big screen. In my personal opinion, the Appalachian Trail is all of these things and more.

How did you first hear about the Appalachian Trail? Were you raised with a great awareness of the outdoors and knowledge of its possibilities? Many were turned on to it by a book or happened to be channel surfing while National Geographic was playing a documentary on the trail. Not one of these things can ever explain what the AT is or what it could be to you. The truth is, to sum up a 14 state trail that is about 90 years old takes much more than any one story, including my own.

And who am I to know the AT so well? I’ve backpacked close to 2,500 miles on the AT, including my 2,175 mile winter thru hike in ’06/’07. For me the trail has become like a close relative, one that I visit often, that I know well, and that has seen me grow while traversing life’s ups and downs. Because of the AT I have memories that live in my mind stronger than a lot of other moments in my life. I can still replay many of these instances vividly in my head.

On Mt. Success in New Hampshire, I would fall waist deep into a bog. Then, on Mt. Greylock, the wind would push us backwards over the icy mountain top. Later still, while in the Shenandoah, I would fight through the stinging pain on the top of my foot that sent a shock through me with every step. The worst of the moments may have been at the Overmountain Shelter where the wind blew the snow and negative temperatures through the cracks in the shelter walls while I tried to shiver myself to sleep.

Then, of course, there were the good times. We ended our day earlier than planned after the Mt. Success catastrophe, which led to the most stunning of shelter views on the entire trail at Gentian Pond Shelter. Our departure from Greylock led us to Dalton, MA, and to one of the most gracious of trail angels. The next day after that night at Overmountain, my best friend and hiking partner would meet his future wife. What of the Shenandoah pain you ask? No good came of that. Sometimes the trail is just cruel.

Today I spend more time with the AT than ever. As part of a local outfitter, I’ve prepared dozens of people for a thru-hike and hundreds for overnights. I’ve mailed them care packages, written meal plans, answered late night calls after worrisome days, hiked with them, dropped them off and picked them up from the trail. I give what advice or help I can, to help tip the scales that send over 75% of hikers home from their journey earlier than expected.

If by chance this article is your first impression of the AT, what is it you should take away? Thus far, I’ve more or less described an existential experience between each person that interacts with the AT and the AT itself. Should I describe trail conditions or trail logistics? Or should I fill your head with the beautiful and magical encounters that I have experienced out there? If you could, would you brave entering into this fairy-tale-like world to see it for yourself?

Perhaps my generalizing is intentional. Perhaps this horrible ankle twisting trail is already overcrowded. To be honest, I enjoy the solitude of sitting atop a mountain peak alone, knowing that the soft breeze is all my own. My instincts suggest that I sway you from the trail. Find your own trail, your own family, and your own fairy tale. But I can’t honestly in good conscience say these things, because the trail is to be shared. I know that generations will enjoy the exploration of setting out for a journey in the woods. Both the young and old will learn more about themselves in a few miles than in the past few years, and I also know that the trail will provide so many with the most imperfect, perfect experience.

So if your heart pulls you to a quiet place in the woods, if your feet just want to move, and if you are ready to listens to nature’s lessons, perhaps you can find what you are looking for on the AT. If so, maybe our paths will cross on that long line from Georgia to Maine, or perhaps before your trip we can sit and I can help prepare you for that next great adventure!

Published in the 2015 Tri-State guide to the Outdoors

 

Previous     More RRT Adventures?     Next

Southbound: episode 17

January 11th 2007
Written by: Bryan Wolf and Joe White

We made it to Pearisburg, VA, about 100 miles farther. The weather has been all over the place. Its been hot, cold, rainy, snowy, and windy. The first day out of Daleville wasn’t much to scream about. The rain wasn’t too bad, it was the dense fog that gave us problems. We spent more than a half hour going back and forth on the trail trying to find the shelter. When we finally found it, we were surprised to find Early Bird all snug in his sleeping bag. You may remember us writing about hiking with him back in Connecticut and New York around veteran’s day. Well, he caught up to us and now he is actually a day in front of us. I’m sure we’ll meet again.Dragons Tooth on the AT

The following day was absolutely gorgeous and we took advantage of it. When we came across Tinker Cliffs and McAfee Knob, we took our time to soak in the views. The numerous mountains and ridges just fill the landscape, its amazing. Next, was a climb up to Dragon’s Tooth. It was a tough climb with little room for error, but I sure am glad we didn’t have to climb down it or in the rain. The rain hit us that night, but no bother really. We stayed dry, but it did start cooling down.

The day before last, we were hit with wind and snow storm. It wasn’t bad in the valley, but when we climbed up on the ridge, it was bitter. There was probably 3 or 4 inches of snow, just enough to completely hide the trail. We had to push on 3 hours into the night to make it to the shelter and what an experience that was. Most of the white blazes on the trees were disguised by a dusting of snow, so we had to pay close attention to everything. The wind was terrible and it kept blowing snow into the shelter. We ate our dinner and drank our hot cider and didn’t get out of the sleeping bags until the next morning. So, yesterday, we pushed out 24 miles into town, so we could dry out the gear overnight. It was rough, but much of the snow was starting to melt along the trail and the wind died off. We made it in sometime around 8 or so last night, just in time to hear the presidential address and all of the critics. Its nice not to have to always hear about the news while on the trail, but then again, we have to remember that we can’t always block out what’s happening in the world.

We are heading out in a few hours, and moving south towards Tennessee. It looks like it is going to warm up a little the next couple days, but after that who knows. We will work with what we get and hope for the best. In just a few days, Marc, a former scout leader and friend of mine, will be joining us on the trail for 2 weeks. We are very excited to have him join us.Bryan at Tinker Cliffs

This exert was originally published on atwishhikers.com. It’s content has not been edited from the original post.

Epilogue:
by: Bryan Wolf

Planning mileage and days around the weather started to come all too natural, suddenly it seemed as if things just didn’t bother us as much. This section had me feeling in good health, including my foot that had the previous pains while hiking. I was still feeling energized by the duo getting back together too. We had a second sense on the trail now more than ever. That kinda of thing happens gradually I suppose. Same as starting a new job; you pick up some skills as you go, but mostly confidence for that which you already knew.  This section has plenty of highlights and postcard picture moments.  The one I’m surprised we did not mention is the Audie Murphy Memorial, the most decorated war veteran has a memorial along the trail.

 

Southbound: episode 16

January 4th 2007
Written by: Bryan Wolf and Joe White

   Its been 2 weeks since we left Waynesboro and we have been having an awesome time. It so nice to be back in the mountains. The views have been absolutely amazing. The day after leaving Waynesboro , we spent an entire day hanging out in the shelter because it rained for like 30 hours straight. During the cold rainstorm, we entertained ourselves with Yahtzee and Uno. The following day wasn’t much to scream about, it was a clear and cold day. However, we did share the shelter/camp with an older couple and two goats that packed her gear, it made for an interesting conversation.

In the morning, we hiked over the Three Ridges, the sun was out and it was near sixty degrees! It was all too grand, the continuous views captured our attention and we all agreed to go about half the distance planned. We hiked over to “Chimney Rocks” where we sat for the rest of the afternoon admiring the view, watching vultures fly over their domain.Backpacking the AT

So then it was Christmas. It could of been better to be honest. We hiked up and over “The Priest”, our first 4000 foot mountain since New Hampshire ! The cold rain kept us from enjoying it though. We cut the day short to avoid getting sick, as we were all drenched and shivering. We built a Christmas tree out of water bottles and just enjoyed getting warm and dry. The following day we decided to treat each other to a Christmas present. We hiked a few miles to a old dirt road, and just another mile and a half down to Montebello and the Dutch Haus Bed and Breakfast. We were pampered with great meals, showers, a warm fire, and The Chipmunks Great Adventure on VHS.

Our weather improved for a few days, and we sure did enjoy it! Great view from the grassy top of Cold Mountain , Bluff Mountain , and on down to the James River . We hitched into the small town of Glasgow for resupply, it took a while to get in, but the town was friendly and it was quick getting out. Then we crossed the James River footbridge, the longest on the AT, at 642 feet. From there it was just a quick creek side walk to the shelter. Most of the shelters in Virginia have had mice, some an army of mice. This shelter however had a rat, he lived in the privy (outhouse).River along the trail

Happy New Years! Like every other holiday, it rained New Years Eve. It was not as cold so we still pushed out our planned thirteen miles. At the shelter that night we finally enjoyed the two heavy bottles of wine Ice Man was carrying. It was only Arbor Mist, but the celebration was priceless! The next morning we played Uno until the rain stopped, and the most beautiful blue skies followed. We crossed Apple Orchard Mountain , a gorgeous grassy bald, the way down kept our attention with cliff side views and short trails to overlooks.

The next few days would have us following and crossing the Blueridge Parkway . It was nice cause they had the trail cross at overlooks. We went later into the night a few times, but enjoyed the sunsets, and the light of the full moon. We stopped at one point to admire the moon framed between the forest limbs and the mountain horizon behind. We feel so fortunate to capture whats “behind the scenes”. The night before last, our shelter was perched above the city lights of Roanoke , magnificent.Balds

We hiked into Daleville yesterday morning, where we met Ginger Snap’s brother and close friend. They spent the night with us at a hotel just off the trail. They were nice enough to shuttle us around for food and resupply. We shared many laughs and we decided Chinese buffets should have microwaves too. Oh, and coconut ice cream is disgusting. The three of them are leaving today to road trip down along the Gulf Coast and Texas . We wish we could tag along, but that just wouldn’t be right.Hiking the AT

This exert was originally published on atwishhikers.com. It’s content has not been edited from the original post.

 

Epilogue:
by: Bryan Wolf

This section brings back some great trail hiking and remains one of my favorite areas.  Between the ridge walking and the balds we had some incredible views.  If we had been on this section with bad weather it may be a different story seeing as we were exposed quite often. The bad weather did come back around but in the worst way. The temperatures dropped to high 30s while we dropped to the valley and then started climbing the Priest.  I think all together I went up the mountain relativity fast but it didn’t seem that way. I found my self stopping often trying to keep with the group a little more. At one point I stopped for what seemed like a half hour and still didn’t see anyone coming up the trail.

This was only bad because I consequently lost most of my heat. for the rest of the day I struggled to feel good about the hiking and was constantly cold. Now i really wanted to meet up with TW and Ginger so we can make a group decision to maybe stop at the next shelter.  By the time I got to the top my body and mentality was shot and I wanted nothing more than to jump in my sleeping bag. After a few false summits I made it to the side trail. I made a little arrow on the ground using sticks to mark my detour for the rest of the group. Not long after getting in the shelter I stripped off my wet clothes and hurried into my bag. The constant rain had soaked through most everything and it took a good hour of shivering in my zero degree bag until I felt normal again. At that point the rain turned to ice and seemed to come down pretty hard making me concerned for TW and Ginger. If I was trucking up the mountain and didn’t stay warm how were they doing?

They arrived soon after and were definitely happy to stop for the night.  Merry Christmas to us! This was for sure the closest I’ve come to having  hypothermia.  Our New Years was also the most effort I’ve ever put into having a midnight toast.  By the end of it all it was back to just TW and I, which I think we were both ready for.  It was time to get back to our old pace.

Southbound: episode 13

December 8th 2006
Written by: Bryan Wolf and Joe White

  Here we are in Harpers Ferry , West Virginia . There is only 4 miles in WV, so we will be in Virginia as soon as we leave here. Virginia will be our 10th state and will also be the longest state, about 545 miles. Since leaving Duncannon , PA 7 days ago, we have gone another 124 miles without any real problems. We are impressed with ourselves and happy to see that we can still have 20 mile hiking days despite the short hours of sunlight. It has been pretty cold though. We have been taking extra care to ensure our water bottles and filter don’t freeze at night, which isn’t hard, just have to put in the sleeping bag. Today it was so cold that our mustaches started to ice over while hiking, so to keep the water from freezing, we had to keep the bottles inside our jackets as we hiked. The wind chill brought the temperature down into the teens.ATCTundra Wookie

As you can see in the pictures, we have come to quite a few nice views looking out over Pennsylvania , Maryland , and West Virginia , but they should be even better in Virginia . We passed the half way point marker (now outdated) and took a step past into the southern half of the trail. We are more than happy to be done with Pennsylvania , and Maryland only lasted two days. The trail took us through another small family cemetery from the 1800s. It was nice to see someone still keeping it fairly cleaned up. We also past by the first monument dedicated to George Washington, as well as several other civil war memorials. We have enjoyed not only the scenery but also the walk through time and history.Blast Iron Furnace

In the last entry, we told you about Little Engine and Ellipse and how they would be hiking with us for awhile. Well, that didn’t last long, actually, we never got to hike with them. They left town a little before we did and Ellipse hit the ground running and we can’t catch him. Little Engine must have gotten off the trail for one reason or another because we didn’t pass him on the trail and he certainly isn’t in front of us.

Overall, we are feeling really good, just have to get back in the grove for cold weather. It is hard to believe that 3 months has already gone by, exactly 92 days and 1165.2 miles behind us. Our mountains await us, above 3000 feet we go again.

This exert was originally published on atwishhikers.com. It’s content has not been edited from the original post.

Epilogue:
by: Bryan Wolf

You know when you just don’t want to get out of bed? You’re buried in the covers and you feel so warm, all you want is to turn over and sleep just one more hour? Now imagine you are outside and it is a cool 15 degrees outside of your sleeping bag! I did not want to get ready the morning that we hiked into Harpers Ferry but of course town food has its persuasions.  First, if you were not already sleeping with your clothes to keep them warm you grab them and warm them in your sleeping bag.  After putting on my hat and gloves I would sit up against the shelter and put on every top layer I had. Next I would put on every bottom layer I had while still in the sleeping bag. I would try to move fast and I had this routine down pretty well. Jumping out of the bag, throwing on boots, packing my entire pack, having breakfast, brushing my teeth, and pumping water while trying to maintain all my body heat.

I wasn’t about to get rid of any layers yet though. If you have a hiking buddy you know that one of you most likely gets ready faster than the other. I had a few more minutes to wonder around camp and check my gear before hitting the trail so I kept everything on till I was sure we were moving.  By the time we got going my toes and fingers were already numb and my body couldn’t hold it’s temperature any more, it is time to move! One at a time we would shed layers to keep comfortable. Hike, Rest, Repeat.

The walk into Harpers Ferry was awesome, after a steep down hill of switchbacks we hit the old canal tow path. It was easy walking and beautiful. At Harpers we registered with the ATC and had our pictures taken to mark our passing. The town isn’t super hiker friendly on pricing or lodging but there is little eateries and a camp store. Of course there is also plenty of sight seeing and historical education to be enjoyed around town.  The untold story was me getting sick in the trail clubs backyard from drinking too much red wine but you don’t need to hear about that. We’ll just say we were very lucky and thankful to be invited to their annual Christmas Party. Here we would also meet Melanie who we’ll see later in the trail; just another example of the trail working it’s magic and intertwining lives in wonderful ways.

Southbound: episode 6

October 16th 2006
Written by: Bryan Wolf and Joe White

  It is amazing to think that it has been almost exactly two weeks since we crossed over into New Hampshire . Tonight, we sit in the Dartmouth College Library just a mile from the Vermont border. We will cross over late tonight after updating the journal and dinner in town. The NH – VT border marks a big milestone for us. Its marks our 2nd state completed (hardest 2), 20% finished, 440 miles, and 40 days of continuous backpacking. This is my longest consecutive backpacking trip ever, but lets not forget that it is Ice Man’s first backpacking trip. Both of us are still excited and feeling great.Falls on Moosilauke

After our night camping under the I-93 bridge outside of North Woodstock , we had a beautiful short hike back into the mountains. That night Ice Man built his first fire on his own with no fire starters or fuel from the stove. It was a nice size fire that kept us warm before dinner. That night, we had the heaviest rainfall of the whole trip. In the morning the stream beside the shelter had risen almost a foot higher than the day before. Ice Man was excited to summit Mt. Wolf , but disappointed that no one actually put a sign at the top. The sadness didn’t last long. We stopped later at a stream to filter some water and the water filter has been making strange noises. Well, as Ice Man was pumping water, a moose walked up behind him making a similar grunting noise as the water filter. It was the funniest thing. The moose stopped just 10 or 15 feet away and looked at us, and we just starred back. It didn’t take but a few seconds before it realized that we were not another moose, and took off running. There wasn’t enough time to even get the camera out.

We had hoped to climb up and over Mt. Moosilake , the last of the White Mountains, before the following day was over. The rain slowed us down, but not nearly as much as the beautiful mile climb up Moosilake. Almost the entire climb paralleled a brook with endless cascading waterfalls. We stopped at the shelter just below the peak instead of risking night hiking. As the night went on, the weather cleared, the mountains hidden in the clouds came out, and the night sky was perfectly clear. It was a great sign of what was to come, or so we thought.Mt. Moosilauke

In the morning, there was a 1/2 inch of snow on the ground, our boots were frozen, and the water filter was iced over. We boiled 4 quarts of water for the day and used the stove to de-ice our boots. We were not expecting this to happen anytime soon. It was a miserable start to a great day. The views from the top of Moosilake were clear. To the east, was the taller rugged White Mountains that we already conquered, and to the west, hahaha. We were a little bummed out to be standing on a mountain that was taller than anything to come in a long while. On the maps, we started to see not just mountains labeled, but also hills.

We knew we were leaving the hardest part of the trail behind as we came down the mountain. The trail almost instantly became smoother and more gradual than before. We ended up doing 16 miles that day even after taking a two hour snack break at the bottom of Moosilake. We wanted to make sure we could make it into Hanover by this morning, so the following day we pushed out a 20 miler over smaller mountains and fields. Yesterday, we made 18 miles to the edge of town. We were hoping to stay in town, but there was nothing cheaper than $80 a night. Luckily a wonderful man, named Dwight offered us a place to stay for the night.Osprey Pack

We were so excited. He had a wonderful family and he and his wife treated us very well. They treated us to hot showers, laundry, and a fabulous dinner. He mapped out the town and dropped us off to wonder around. We stopped by Ben & Jerry’s ice cream and Murphy’s Pub. It was nice to sit and relax for a while. We slept on a nice comfy bed with a down comforter and our own bathroom right next door. It was excellent. We came into town this morning to resupply and tie up loose ends.
We are going to experiment with our diet this week by doubling our calorie intake. According to backpacker magazine, winter hikers that hike for 8 hours need 5 to 6 thousand calories a day. I think we were somewhere in the ballpark of 2500 on a good day. Food is heavy, but we are loading up this time. The only thing harder to hike with other than an aching body is a hungry stomach. It is amazing the diet we can handle out here. It really is. The plan is to be in North Adams , Mass. in 9 days which is where we hope to update you once again, but it may come sooner. We have to resupply in a town again in a few days.

This exert was originally published on atwishhikers.com. It’s content has not been edited from the original post.

Epilogue:
by: Bryan Wolf

My first memory of Hanover is that of randomly hiking up on Dwight and his son. It was a great display of faith and trust on his part to extend his hand and his home.  There couldn’t of been five minutes in conversation before he offered showers and home cooking.  This was an amazing surprise after what was one of the very hardest nights and mornings on the trail.  What we came to find out at dinner, is that Dwight was one of the original founders of Jetboil.  We will always have a wonderful story and proudly sell Jetboil because of the good nature we received that day, besides they are great stoves too!

Depite the top of Mt. Mooilake being one of the more difficult mornings, it was also one of the more thrilling. I remember and often revisit that adrenaline rush that comes with harsh weather and long exposure to the elements of our raw world.  My boots had frozen and took the first two miles to thaw, even after which my feet remained frozen for several more. The first time you face these challenges, and the first time you realize the severity of your choice to do a winter thru-hike is scary.  At the same time it is exhilarating and makes you feel very alive.  It is these experiences that build your confidence and knowledge in these trips.

Southbound: episode 4

September 29th 2006
Written by: Bryan Wolf and Joe White

256 miles of the AT in 22 days leaves us 25 miles from the Maine – New Hampshire state line!!!! We are really excited to have made it to Andover , ME. It means we have cranked out a lot of hard miles and we are about to finish the 2nd longest state only to Virginia and 2nd hardest only to New Hampshire . After leaving Stratton on the 23rd, we had to hike through 2 days of cold rain. It was more like walking amongst the clouds and the wet rocks and roots were like walking on ice. We had to climb over Crocker and Sugarloaf Mountain ranges except we couldn’t see anything other than a screen of fog.

There was no rain on the 3rd day as hoped and forecasted, which really helped us get up and over the incredible Saddleback Range . The views from the 4000+ ft mountains were incredible. I think we were able to see Mt. Washington for the first time in the distance. We had plans to put in a lot of miles, but when we came across Piazza Rock lean-to, the best well kept lean-to on the AT, we just had to stop. It was an early day, but we built a nice fire, dried out the tent and some clothes, and just enjoyed the evening. We had a huge owl join us by the campfire just after dark. It was so sweet, I could see the fire in his eyes.Fall on the Appalachian Trail

The next morning, we hiked a couple of miles and hitched a ride into Rangely, so that Tundra Wookie could get some knee braces and grab some grub. It took a couple hours away from our hike, but it was worth it. We still continued to do another 14 miles after our hitch back to the trail head. It feels good to have a good hiking day like that, especially after a long break in the day. Our bodies are becoming more adjusted to the work load that we force on them day-to-day.
The following day was bright, as the sun smiled upon us our whole way over the Bemis Mountain Range. The range was not the highest, but the sun on the fall colors bellow was awesome! We were in-between the several peaks when the two of us stopped dead in our tracks, and in silence, listened. It was obvious, there was either a tank running through the trees, or a moose was approaching? We stared, and watched as a Bull Moose, with a rack that four people could sit on, crumpled the surrounding brush as it slowly walked by. It was crazy to see, it was like a mythical creature until you see it so close in the wild. The day was capped off at a tent site by an old state road and a small brook. There we met a couple that was doing several day hikes on their vacation, and had hiked the AT before. We would enjoy in some “Trail Magic” as the couple volunteered two Red Hook Late Harvest Ales that night, and oatmeal cookies the following morning. We built our fire, enjoyed hot cider and our dehydrated lasagna dishes, yum yums.

We were visited the next morning by a moose as well, unable to get a look, we could only hear it as it ran though the brook splashing like a stampede of horses. The next morning we moved up, over, and around mountains like they were nothing at all. Before we knew it we had done nearly 11 miles to the road to Andover , the afternoon had barely begun! We are staying at the Roadhouse hostel, it is a little weird for us. The place is great, clean, warm, well equipped, and friendly, that is when people are here.White Blaze

We spend so much time it the wilderness, and then come into the smallest of towns, something we are already not very a custom to. We arrived and a general note on the door says to make yourself at home, so we do. One attendant leaves about an hour into our stay and the other never shows up? So its the two of us in a huge three story B&B style/Hostel, internet, kitchen, bath, living room, dining room, laundry, a dozen private rooms, and bunkhouse all to ourselves, all night. We came and went, to the general store and post office and back. It feels like were not supposed to be here, like we broke in or something. We are enjoying our time and gluttonous urges as we restock, and carefully plan out our hike for the days to come. Our next “Zero Day” is planned for Hanover NH , right before we reach Vermont , about 180 miles from here, our bodies will be fully exhausted by then. We miss everyone very much, and thank you for the strength you give us each day. Everyday becomes more amazing!

This exert was originally published on atwishhikers.com. It’s content has not been edited from the original post.

Epilogue:
by: Bryan Wolf

Joe and I took off our shirts atop Avery Mountain for a photo op in the chilly breeze.  I feel like this picture summarized our feelings well; we were having fun and enjoying the hike. The Saddleback and Bemis Range have to be two of the most beautiful mountain ranges next to the White Mountains. It is still unreal to think back on some of these days, my heart filled with gratitude to all those that helped us and opened their arms for us. There are a many things and many people that don’t seem to be real anymore. These places and people are far from city life. We had done another gear purge at Andover as well, this took our once 70 pound packs down to the more reasonable 50-55 that we would hike with the rest of the trip.Avery Peak Flex