The Appalachian National Scenic Trail, generally known as the Appalachian Trail or simply the AT, is a marked hiking trail in the eastern United States extending between Springer Mountain in Georgia and Mount Katahdin in Maine. It is approximately 2,181 miles long. The path is maintained by 30 trail clubs and multiple partnerships,and managed by the National Park Service and the nonprofit Appalachian Trail Conservancy. The majority of the trail is in wilderness, although some portions do traverse towns and roads, and cross rivers. The Appalachian Trail is famous for its many hikers, some of whom, called thru-hikers, attempt to hike it in its entirety in a single season. Along the way, the trail passes through the states of Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine.

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Monday, April 7, 2014

On to the Continental Divide Trail - Summer 2014

I will begin my 3,100 mile hike of the Continental Divide Trail on April 30 2014.  I have a new Blog at www.sporkventures.com.  Please stop by and follow me throughout the summer.

Ryan (Spork) Iker

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

ON TO THE PACIFIC CREST TRAIL

As some of you may know and some may not, I have decided to do the Pacific Crest Trail this summer from Mexico to Canada with my AT hiking buddy Chimp.  I'll be setting up a new blog to record the trip and will post the address here ASAP.  I have more to say about the AT and promise to finish up some of what I started in the last post but right now I'm in Tucson training and trying to put some funds away.

Ryan

Saturday, December 31, 2011




After more time than it should have taken me, I realize I finally need to put some of my thoughts to paper.  It has now been almost 3 months since coming off the trail.  I find myself in Tucson, in December, in shorts. The trail seems like yesterday but it also has this dream-like quality of something that has occurred in my distant past.  I am now on the other side of the country surrounded by deserts and mountains.  I guess I couldn’t have found more opposite surroundings than east coast forest. 
Here I am an Appalachian trail thru hiker. How does it feel people ask?  I wish it was easier to explain. The truth is, it’s not something tangible that happens the moment you come off the trail.  I talked to Kipper the other day and we were talking about how we find ourselves at night walking outside  and staring at the sky. Looking for something? Not really looking because we found it during those 6 months in the woods. Can I explain easily what we found? No but I can try.
I knew after the first night on the trail that I had entered a place I was familiar with but never really knew. We spend countless hours driving through and past woods and forest, looking but not seeing.  I was now officially and completely in the woods.  Glimpses of the world I knew were fleeting but just frequent enough to make you realize it was there and you were here. Going to the woods is a life changing experience.  It was an experience that was so exhilarating, intimidating, exciting and foreign all at the same time.  The entire experience has almost taken on a dream quality.  It is a period of my life that I will hold onto for the balance of my days.  What still surprises me is that it grabbed me, it held me, it changed me.   
I started the trip with the same knowledge that most people have - minimal. That’s part of what made it so exciting, the unknown. The people who did well were the ones who adapted and were resourceful. You must be able to stay calm and positive even when facing near freezing temperatures with only a light fleece blanket.  You must learn to be comfortable with sleet and 70 mile an hour wind gusts. We coined the phrase on the trail;  vomit of randomness. It seemed to fit and it became the explanation as to why adaptation and acceptance were the only way to survive.  I didn’t hike the trail by myself. Sure I started by myself, but I made some amazing friends. They became family.  I had those who I loved with me every step of the way.
And now I try to make some sense of this crazy dream...
Georgia was absolutely beautiful, though still looking like the tail end of winter, the feeling of a new season in the woods was very strong. The rhododendrons were about all the green you saw. Some starting to bud, eventually turning into one of the most beautiful things on the trail. Excitement and an overwhelming urge to see what was around the bend. I met some hiking partners early. People don’t understand the community aspect of the AT until they experience it. The trail operates the way the world should. Giving, caring, and respect for fellow man. (Let’s be honest though, there were definitely some turds out there. Some things you can never get away from.) The first steps on the trail were taken while sporting a massive ear to ear smile on my face. I had a huge face woody. The start of the trek for me was almost 50% hiking and 50% camping. While not hiking much over 12 or 13 miles, I made it to camp around 1 or 2 in the afternoon a lot of days. The rest of the day was full of fires, eating, and laughing. This somewhat relaxed start didn’t last too long until hiking more than hanging out was the norm.
Not too long after I took off from Springer came the Smoky Mountains. This felt like my old stomping grounds. I treasure the early memories of going to the Smokies as a kid. I have a tough time thinking back on specific moments on the trail but my time in the Smokies were very clear.  Living for the moment created a blurry vision of a lot of the trail. I rarely looked at my guidebook. I pretty much hiked until I saw a familiar face. I rarely knew where we were, how much we had hiked already, where the next shelter was, and what anything was actually called. A lot of people were somewhat obsessive (in a good way) about looking at “the book.” Which was great because I could just ask them where I was. I wanted to let go as much as possible.
Coming out of the Smoky Mountains was the first time I smelled Spring. The elevation dropped considerably and the forest was green and scattered with wild flowers. Every time the forest drastically changed there was a warming feeling of rejuvenation. The hunger for the next turn was overwhelming. I think I told my dad about once every 2 weeks that I was “getting good at this whole hiking thing.” Every time I said it I realized there was still a lot to learn and a LOT of miles still to hike. It all came down to being proud of what you did that day and have an open mind for what the next day would bring.
Another question a lot of people ask is; what was the craziest thing you saw on the trail? Kipper was telling me that this was one of the hardest questions to answer. I totally agree. We came up with this answer;  Almost everything we saw seemed crazier than the last. So many things came up with little warning, most good and some not as good. Nothing was bad. It was just what the trail had in store for us. I mean we were the ones who decided to walk 2,181 miles, you can’t do anything but be grateful for every rock, tree, flower, and animal you see. Start getting negative and you will find yourself on the couch wondering where it all went wrong. I now find myself wondering at times how it all went so right. Answer... positivity, stubbornness, great family and friends, and my dad.
I need to take some time and say that there were multiple hardships that I faced on the trail. For how much the mental aspect of the trail affected the outcome, I always knew that I had my Dad there to get my back. I had my ID stolen/lost, I needed supplies, I had a sweet blog, I got antibiotics shipped to me when the fear that I had Lyme disease set in, I had moral support, I got to bounce feelings and ideas off of someone who knows me better than anyone... All this due to you Dad. I love you and am forever grateful for all that you have done through the trail, past, present, and future. Thank You! I felt like you were right there with me when I stumbled through the clouds and reached out for that sign that I walked so far to touch.
After the Smokies came some great southern trail highlights like Hot Springs, Erwin, Pond Mountain Wilderness, Max Patch, and Roan Mountain just to name a few. Through all of these places is where I developed the mindset and physical strength needed to make it. Through this stretch I got a good sense of how crazy weather can change how you go about your day and night. I saw hail, 70 mile an hour wind gusts, lots of rain, and the heat started to kick in a bit. I could go on for days about the beauty and challenge of this section. If I did, things would start to get a bit redundant. I’ll say this... It was sweet!
DAMASCUS! WHAT UP! The first major milestone. There was a lot that happened for me around Damascus. I took 2 days off here to rest and game plan. Up until this point I had been hiking with Bierburger, Fish, Lemon, Bearbait, and Habitat. I owe a lot to these people. We were a tight knit pack that supported and helped each other every day. I had a blast and it got the hike off to a great start. There was a certain need to venture out of Damascus with a new start. I felt at this point that I was missing a part of the trail that I had looked foward to, solitude and a do whatever I want, whenever I want kind of mentality. Thanks to the crew for everything. I’ll always cherish the memories and friendships. I took some time to relax and figure out my gear. While in Damascus I met Kipper. With no definite plans we set out and quickly met up with Habitat. It was on. We quickly made it to one of the coolest sections of the trail, The Grayson Highlands - wild ponies, crazy changing landscapes, awesome campsites, and nice trail. Shortly after the Highlands we started hiking with Achilles. It was an extremely fun group of people to hike with. Next came the only time on the trail that I really thought I might be done for. Sprained ankle number 3.
The pain that everyone went through was probably the number two most common topic of conversation on the trail, just behind food. Something hurt at all times. You had to learn how to make friends with the pain and eventually start to find a strange joy in it. It made you feel alive and tough. I dealt with a nagging ankle issue for about 1,800 miles. The first sprain coming in Fontana Dam, the second... I think was around Pond Mountain Wilderness, and the third which was pretty bad right before Pearisburg, VA. The first 2 times I had to wait about 10 or 15 minutes before I could begin putting pressure on it and then it eventually loosened up. Not this time. I couldn’t go on. I walked back about a half mile with Habitat, who is one of the nicest people I have ever met, and set up camp. I ended up taking the next day off which was a bummer for multiple reasons. I was falling behind the people I was hiking with.  The next morning  I couldn’t put much weight on it. The day passed as I lay in my tent watching the butterflies. I occasionally walked over to the stream to soak my ankle. The next day it hurt but I could put pressure on it. I had 64 miles to Woods Hole Hostel where I was trying to catch up with everyone.  I got it done in 3 days with 20 plus miles a day on a busted ankle. Wake up early and hike late. Slow and steady. This was my triumphant moment over pain and adversity.  These three days defined my hike.
I met Kipper in Pearisburg. He was with Chimp. This was the first time we had met. Can’t say enough about these two guys. Kipper and I decided to take 4 days off and let my ankle and his shin splints heal. Chimp headed out on the second day. Through the next 4 days we slept in a hotel room with 6 hikers, camped by a set of train tracks where there was a train that passed every hour or so, even through the night, caught some fish, and paid a visit to Blacksburg where Virginia Tech is located. Did I mention we ate copious amounts of food during our time off? It was a lot of fun but we were both eager to get back on the trail. Shortly after we left Pearisburg I met Bluefoot for the first time. I hiked off and on with Bluefoot for the remainder of the trip. Awesome person! A lot great times on the trail were with Bluefoot. You’re my boy Blue!
After Pearisburg Kipper and I were in a strange bubble where we didn’t see many other thru hikers for days on end. It was starting to get hot and water was becoming more and more scarce. Kipper and I decided to try our hand at a little night hiking. The night before we stayed at Four Pines Hostel and ended up staying up until 3 or 4 in the morning. We decided to set our tents up in the barn. Bad idea. At 5:30 in the morning were woken up by about 15 chickens circling our tents squawking. They would not stop and we had only gotten a couple hours of sleep. We hung out all day and then around 8 at night we set out for Daleville, 26 miles away. This being one of the crazier hikes I was a part of. We got tired and incredibly loopy around 4 in the morning. We would have just set our tents up but we had to get to the post office in Daleville by noon that day. We pushed through and made it. After a nap on the patio furniture outside the Kroger we grabbed a hotel and headed out of Daleville early the next morning. Destination Waynesboro, the official start of Shenandoah National Park.
More to come………………..

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Home 10/3

Ryan arrived home last evening.  I have added the pictures of the last week in Maine to Katahdin and the drive home.  I had the pleasure of meeting Kipper and Chimp on their way through Cincinnati to their destination of Knoxville and Jacksonville Florida.
 
  It was difficult to watch the parting of this group. They obviously shared an experience few have.  None of them were ready for it to end. They looked like a band of homeless Mennonites.  I truly enjoyed getting to spend their last time together with them. 

Once he wakes up Ryan will take over the blog and provide some thoughts on the trip.

I will be adding the videos as soon as possible. 

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Congratulations, Ryan! 10/1/2011


I received a call from Ryan at 10:10 this morning from the peak of Mt Katahdin.  He was exited and emotional.  He summited with 6 other hikers.  He only spoke for a moment and promised to call back when they got off the mountain.   I’ll post his comments when he does.

Congratulations, Ryan, you’ve accomplished something few have.  You’ve gambled everything you’ve done up to this point in your life on a dream. It was a roll of the dice where the odds were dictated not by the house but by you.  You can now say you’ve completed the entire 2,181 miles of the Appalachian trail, not almost, not nearly, but completely.   One thing is clear; regardless of your reason or motivation you have won a great victory of the spirit and mastery of the will.
  No matter what you do with the rest of your life you will have this one 6 month period as testament to your conviction, strength, and commitment.  It’s hard to imagine any tribulation that would come close to the effort required to conquer this feat.  

Friday, September 30, 2011

Katahdin 9/30

Based on last night's GPS ping they camped within Baxter State Park. By air it appears they are within 10 miles of Katahdin Peak, the northern terminus for the AT.  It's hard to say how many trail mile that equals.  They will need to check in with the park headquarters and request permission to make an assault on the peak.  The park is a very highly regulated wildnerness area where human come second to the wildlife and flora. The amount of people allowed in the park is controlled to very low numbers and those climbing Katahdin are required to sign and and gain permission for the climb.

It's hard to say if they will climb today or if they plan on waiting a day or two.  The weather calls for rain until Tuesday.  Based on Ryan's comments last week they may hang out aroud Baxter and soak it all in for a day or two.  It was also important that they have a certain group together to make the climb together.  While you would expect exhuberance over finishing the 2,181 miles there seems some sadness for it all being over.  I would expect there have been some very strong friendships and bonds formed over a 6 month 2,200 adventure from Georgia to Maine.  You have to wonder how the whole experience would change a person. 

I'll post as soon as I hear from him again. 

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Videos Posted 9/27

There are around 30 new videos posted in the right column.  There may be a few more added but some are too large to get transfered.  These came from the same picture card as the latest pictures.  Both are listed as 8/29 - 9/20. 

Monday, September 26, 2011

New Pictures and Videos

I received a picture disk in the mail today from Ryan.  This one covers New Hampshire into Maine through the White Mountains.  It has over 500 pictures and 45 videos.  I will post them all.  The pictures are in the right column and it may take a few days to get all of the videos loaded.  This is by far the best group of pictures and scenery he has sent. 

Chairback Mountain, ME 80 miles to Katahdin

Haven't heard a word from Ryan since Monson.  Wasn't really expecting to.  He's in the 100 mile Wilderness somewhere around the Katahdin Ironworks road.  As best I can tell from the GPS ping they camped last night at the Chairback Gap Pond.

As of last night they have about 80 miles to go.  That should put them at Katahdin some time this coming weekend.  Depending on weather they may get held at the park headquarters before being released for the climb. 

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Emails and Comments 9/22

Ryan has received literally hundreds of emails over the past months from friends and strangers. He got this one today, for some reason I thought it appropriate to post it here.

Hey,

I just checked out your video, and i'm in total awe. In the moment, living one step at a time. love it. i have books about hiking the AT, but haven't mustered the guts to do it...yet. you are inspiring.

Peace and Love my friend,

A...

Monson,ME and the 100 Mile Wilderness - 9/22

Received another short phone call from Ryan last night.  They arrived in Monson, ME around 5 last evening.  He reported that they have covered 19 miles per day this week.  They’ve been trying to make the last few hundred miles last but he said the trail is so nice and flat in this area that it’s hard not to cover 20 miles in even a half a day. 
I received an email from the post office at 9:00 this morning that Ryan got his package.  We’re still a little tentative about packages since he still doesn’t have a valid photo ID.  Apparently taping his picture to the package did the trick.  They gave the package up.
He sounded nearly romantic in his description of the Maine woods.  In the past few days, he has seen two moose.  He went on and on about the loons on the lakes and the awesome sound they made in the evening.  He described the forest as primitive, Jurassic, and isolated. 
He’s sending a picture disk home with 4GB of pictures and videos he promises to be the best stuff of the trip. 
They are camping this evening in the back yard of a trial supporter in Monson who is trading dinner, breakfast and stay for feeding the chickens and pigs in the morning and picking up all of the apples in his yard.  Ryan felt it was a good deal and a nice change of pace.
At Monson they are at 2066 miles.  That leaves 115 miles to Mount Katahdin.
While writing this Ryan called again to let me know he got his package and to say we’d probably not hear from him again until after Katahdin.  They are entering the 100 Mile Wilderness and Baxter State Park.  There is no telephone reception at all.   He was glad to get his rain pants and heavy boots as they are predicting rain for the next 4 days. 
Ryan will finish the trail with Chimp and Kipper.  These three have been together off and on since Virginia. They have one last goal for the trip other than to climb Katahdin and that is to do a 30 mile day.  They plan on doing this in the 100 Mile Wilderness after Monson.
He said their packs are heavy with food and supplies and he is looking forward to this week with excitement as well as dread.  He said it was really going to be weird not being in the woods after 6 month on the trail.  He knew he was going to miss it.  The adventure is winding down and is finishing with the most remote section of the trail yet.  I copied this description off the web and pasted it here:
THE 100 MILE WILDERNESS

The 100 Mile Wilderness is the northernmost section of the Appalachian Trail; the 2181 mile footpath running along the mountainous region of the Eastern seaboard from Springer Mountain in Georgia to Katahdin in Maine. Surrounded by more than 15 million acres of virtually inaccessible woodlands, this is also one of the most remote sections of trail in the entire United States. This is the land that time forgot; unspoiled, uninhabited and seldom traveled. This is a land of harsh contrasts; pleasing to behold, yet unforgiving to the ill-prepared. Make no mistake about it; this is nature in the raw. Treking across a rough and ragged footpath through an impenetrable forest of dense spruce, fragrant fir, mixed hardwoods and stately pines, the trail provides the traveler with a true Maine wilderness experience. Fording swift moving icy rivers, skirting pristine lakes and ponds, past narrow slate canyons flowing with cascading waters, thunderous waterfalls and deep pockets of emerald pools, the mind begins to wander as the miles slip by. Ascending high mountain ridges with far reaching panoramic views, the Appalachian Trail through Maines’ 100 Mile Wilderness is not only a journey of epic proportions, but a true test of ones own physical strengths and resolve. For many, this is a dream hike; a once in a lifetime experience that calms the soul within. This is a place of solitude and quiet contemplation; an opportunity to explore not only the vast wildlands, but the chance to look within ones own inner self. The 100 Mile Wilderness offers the visitor an outdoor experience rarely found elsewhere. Savor the natural beauty with each awe inspiring mile as you make your way along a path encountering but few, yet marveled by many. In many ways, your life will be changed; never the same. A new awakening to a world that once was and still is. This is Maines’ 100 Mile Wilderness.
Makes you wonder how fast you can drive up to Maine and walk that last 100 miles with them.   I hope to get the picture drive from him by the weekend.  I’ll get the pictures posted ASAP. 

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Progress Through Maine, 2,000 miles 9/18



Ryan called Saturday afternoon from Stratton, Maine.  He had hiked into Stratton to resupply.  They will return to the trail before dark. The cell connection was bad and he could only talk for a minute or two. They have run into snow, sleet and hail several times in the past two days.  The tempertaure was down to 27 degrees Friday evening.

This afternoon he passed the 2,000 mile mark.
 
We quickly exchanged a list of supplies and a mail drop location for this Thursday.  He's asked for his heavy boots, heavy socks, rain pants, and picture disks.  He is down to one disk and can't send one home until he gets his others in the mail.  He and hopefully his package will be in Monson Maine on Thursday.

He was in good spirits and continues to talk about making the most of what he has left.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Rangely Maine 9/13

Talked to Ryan for a few minutes this afternoon. He is near Rangely Maine. He is doing well. They have 220 miles to go and are not in a hurry. He said Maine has been beautiful. He will be hitting an outiftter tomorrow and is in bad need of some new shoes. These are worn through.

They had wild grouse and trout for dinner over an open fire. Best meal he has ever had. From here on out no motels, hostels, or inside camping. He said it is as wild as you can get.
They are now figuring an Oct 4 finish date.

While the first part of Maine was the roughest he's seen, this section has been very enjoyable hiking. The climbs are gentle and the trail is soft and easy on the body.

As anxious as everyone was to make it this far they are all less anxious to see it end. He said they will make the most of every mile and miss nothing.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Maine 9/9

I received a short and crackling phone call this afternoon from Ryan.  He was on a mountain peak high enough to gain phone access.  He was on a borrowed Iphone.  His go-phone will not be usable for the balance of the trip to Baxter.  We are still trying to get his Iphone fixed and back to him.  We are running out of drop package options as he moved further into the Maine wilderness.  It’s likely he’ll be without through most of the trip to Baxter. Reception will be very limited regardless.  There are only a handful of trail towns left.  He will try to make contact when he comes to a land line. 
The first 50 miles of Maine are the hardest miles of the trail.  This is the section of trail he has hiked over 1900 miles to experience.  Yesterday he passed through Mahoosuc Notch which is the hardest mile of the hardest section.  It has been raining for the last 3 days and is forecast to continue through the weekend.  The weather is cold.  The trail is wet and slippery.  He claims to be in heaven. His enthusiasm and excitement is very high.  You can hear it in his voice and his struggle for the right words to describe his surroundings. He said the only description he could come up with is “awesome” but he’s worn that one out.  Apparently the woods of Maine are somewhere beyond awesome. He said he couldn’t explain it and you couldn’t imagine it if he could.  Grand ideas often lose their luster when the reality sets in.  Talking to Ryan today it became crystal clear that his reality is at least as good if not better than the idea.  He has not only conquered a significant portion of the idea, he has turned it into the realization of a dream. He has not hesitated or backed down since announcing the trip.  He has never mentioned quit and listening to him I am confident it has not entered his mind.   The trail is simply a matter of will. He demonstrated to himself his own power over his will.  
   
These are very rugged and rocky mountains.  He said most of the hiking is hand over hand. You do as much pulling yourself up as you do pushing yourself along.  Mahoosuc Notch is a cut between two rocky peaks.  The trail is littered with car and bus size boulders that have fallen from the peaks from either side.  Many times he had to remove his pack and drag it behind to squeeze between the boulders. The climb out of the notch rose 1500 feet in a mile.  While this section is particularly rugged it is typical of the trail ahead for the next 300 miles. 
I don’t expect to hear much from him in the coming week.  Hopefully he will be able to send GPS pings so we can track his progress. He is still hiking with Kipper, Chimp, Bluefoot, and the young lady in the last pictures.  I cannot remember her name.  I will get it.  This group will finish the trail together.  Most of the thru hikers around them are all pairing up for the final weeks.  Fellowship has advantages in this wilderness.  I get the impression that they all need to share the experience with someone capable of understanding the accomplishment.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

1,900 miles, 5 months - 9/6

Ryan called Saturday from a land phone in Gorham, NH. His ATT GoPhone has reached its Northern Limit. We are trying t get his I phone fixed in time to get it to one of the few mail drops available prior to getting into the remote parts of Maine. It is reported that the 3G capability of his I phone may work at elevation.
He said the hike up Mount Washington was perfect. There are less than 30 days a year that the fog and weather do not diminish the view from the top and he was there for one. The hike was enjoyable but difficult. He said it was a little like walking through a rock quarry. He is anxious to get his photo card home to share the experience. He saw his first moose on the descent. They hiked back off the trail to get water and ran into her. Unfortunately, he did not have his camera but Kipper did and got plenty of pictures.
The weather is getting much colder with every day of hiking. He said it has been a perfect week with daytime in the 60’s and night temps in the 40’s. Unfortunately, their first week in Maine is forecast for rain most of the week. Based upon Sunday’s GPS they should be entering Maine sometime today.
Barring any major setbacks he is still estimating a September 30 arrival at Baxter State Park. He admitted that the 20+ mile days are over. The trials here are rough, rocky, and wind considerable due to rapid elevation changes. A good day is around 12 miles. The Maine / New Hampshire border is exactly 1,900 miles from Springer. He has less than 300 miles to go. In three days, he will be on the trail for 5 months.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Mt Washington Summit, Videos and Pictures - 9/2

I received a GPS ping at 8:30 this morning from the summit of Mount Washington. It’s impressive that they made the climb that early in the day. It’s rare that they even allow a summit attempt due to high winds and bad weather. They will have plenty of time to make it off the mountain this afternoon.
There are 3 new picture and video links in the right column. The last is pictures from 8/16 through 8/28. These are from Vermont into New Hampshire and run right up to the closing of the park for the hurricane. The other two links contain videos he shot on the trail. They are definitely worth watching.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Mt Washington Climb 9/1

Based on the GPS ping they will be making a run at Mt Washington tomorrow morning, weather permitting.  They are at Lake of the Clouds tonight at 5,000 ft of elevation. This is well up the side of Mt Washington and above tree line.

 I received a picture disk from Ryan today with 500 pictures and 7 videos.  These should be on the site Friday. 

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Mt. Garfield 8/30

It looks like they had a good day. They are camping on Mt Garfield, the first mountain in the Presidential Range. They are camping at around 4,000 ft of elevation.

On the Trail Again 8/30

Ryan called this morning and said that as of 8:00 am portions of the park are reopening. The majority of the blow downs and trail flooding is in the southern part of the park. The AT takes a more northern route. They have opened the AT with the caveat that you travel at your own risk. There is a group of 15 - 20 north bounders getting on the trail at the same time so they will remain bunched up for a few days. Ryan said he’d make an extra effort to keep his GPS pings coming.

Trail Closed Unitl Further Notice 8/29

Talked to Ryan Monday evening. He, Bluefoot, and Kipper are still holed up in a motel in Woodstock, N.H. The White Mountain National Forest webite is now saying that the trail is closed until further notice. At this point it’s hard to say when it will open. Ryan said the weather has cleared nicely but the streams around Woodstock are still raging. Most have dropped but they are still impassable. They are hoping for a Tuesday opening. He said there are quite a few through hikers piling up in Woodstock. Several of them attempted to get back on the trial Monday morning and were returned to town by the Rangers.
They were working through their options. They can wait it out. They could go north and hike southbound back into the Whites. Ryan is committed to finish the trail as a northbound hiker. The next few days will drive that decision. One thing they were all sure of was that they would have to check out of the hotel today. While the trail may seem like a free and unencumbered adventure the cost for a through hike averages around $5,000. Everyone is getting tight on their finances. Motels are not part of the budget.
He’s still very upbeat and talked about how hard it is to “relax”. The down time is nice from a healing up perspective but he said they all feel like trapped animals. After six month outdoors, anything over a night indoors loses its novelty quickly. The weather is supposed to be sunny and in the high 60’s over the next week so they are anxious to get back in the woods.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Clermont Sun Article 8/27

The Clermont Sun newspaper ran an article on Ryan a few weeks ago.  They also plan on doing a follow up after the trail.  I recently realized that they had the article on their WEB site as well.  The link is:

http://clermontsun.com/2011/07/28/batavia-man-is-hiking-2180-mile-trail/

Woodstock, New Hampshire 8/27

Ryan checked in from a motel in West Woodstock, New Hampshire.  They made it in around 3:00 this afternoon after two 13 mile days through the Whites.  As of 6:00 PM this afternoon the White Mountain National Forest has been closed until Monday at midnight due to the anticipated storm.  Ryan and Bluefoot’s decision to call ahead and get a motel was a good one.  He said the entire town is sold out. The national forest can be closed for weather but it is extremely rare for this time of year.  They are expecting considerable blow downs in the mid elevations.   Due to the mountain elevation in the Whites wind speeds can be as much as twice as strong as they are at lower elevation. 
Ryan was really pumped up about the first two days in the White Mountains.  He describes them as freakin awesome.  Friday they scaled Mt Moosilauke at over 4,000 feet and above tree line at the summit.  He said the last two days have been perfect weather and they got a rare glimpse of Mt. Washington from the peak.  There are only about 30 days per year that Mt Moosilauke is clear enough to see Mt Washington.  He described the climb as brutal.  Most of the climb up and back down was on shear rock faces and was hand over hand climbing.  He said there were many places where the trail club has drilled pitons into the faces for hand and foot holds.

They are hoping the storm fizzles out or moves through quickly because they are very anxious to get back on the trail.  

While I was on the phone with Ryan Bluefoot broke into the room to announce that the deli next door to the hotel was incredible.  The phone call was over at that point.  I’m sure we’ll hear more from him this weekend.  They are pretty well motel bound. 

Friday, August 26, 2011

Hurricane Irene 8/26

Without fail, if I say I don’t expect to hear from him, he calls.  He is in Glencliff.  They spent the night at a trail hostel.  His phone is not working well in the area but the hostel had a phone they let the hikers use.  Most of the discussion revolved around Hurricane Irene.  He said he’s been really surprised at the local reaction.  There are a lot of preparations being made for the storm which is predicted to center over the area Sunday morning.  With the White Mountains to the north and a predicted path over central New Hampshire the locals are predicting heavy rain and high winds.  They are throwing around the term nor’easter. 

There are many people moving inland from the shore.  In anticipation of being stranded in the mountains in a tent Ryan and Bluefoot have made reservations at a motel in West Woodstock for Sunday night and Monday if necessary. They will need to cover 28 miles Friday and Saturday.  Kipper stayed behind in Hanover and should catch back up mid week.  Chimp is off the trail for a week to attend to some personal things at home.  He rented a car in Hanover and is driving back to the Midwest.
New Hampshire so far has been described as “awesome”.  The terrain is rocky with lots of shear rock faces and rock scrambles.  A good day in this terrain is 13-15 miles.  Glencliff marks the start of the Whites and they will have their first 4,000 ft + climb today in order to get to Woodstock.  This storm represents the first time Ryan has decided to hunker down for any weather since leaving Georgia.  The banter of the locals have put some concern in his head and it’s probably a good thing.  The Whites can be rough in good weather. 

He said the absolute priority now is to protect the dream of finishing the 2,181 miles of the Appalachian trail.  

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Glencliff, N.H. / White Mountains 8/25

We have not heard much from Ryan and Company since Hanover, NH.  They spent a down day near Dartmouth College sometime last weekend.   He made a couple of attempts to call but the connection was bad and the call was short.  He sent a GPS ping around 3:00 this afternoon putting him in Glencliff, NH.  They are officially in the White Mountain National Forest.  At Glencliff, he has hiked 1,782 miles.  He has exactly 400 to go. 
 
From what I could understand a few of the hikers he is with are running out of money.  There was a prospect of staying in Hanover an extra day and doing some kind of work for someone.  I never was able to get the details.  Ryan appeared to be on the move by Monday morning.  He did miss a couple of GPS pings but his progress indicated he has been on the move the entire week.
The Whites and the Presidential Range promise to be a challenging hike by not only altitude but also weather extremes, bears, and moose.  Checking the park bulletin board, they are warning of considerable bear activity in the park.  The ultimate challenge in the Whites will be Mount Washington. At 6,500 feet Mount Washington holds the world wind speed record and many temperature records. During a wild April storm in 1934, a wind gust of 231 miles per hour (372 kilometers per hour) pushed across the summit of Mount Washington. This wind speed still stands as the all-time surface wind speed observed by man record. 80 mph is common on most days.

The predicted track of the hurricane heading up the east coast takes the storm right up through Hew Hampshire and into the White Mountains.  That should add another level of excitement.  Last week Ryan was telling me how much they enjoyed heavy rain and hail.  His theory was that after walking 1700+ miles it took a lot to add challenge.  A good storm added to the challenge and excitement.  They looked forward to bad weather.
Thee will be few chances to hear from him for the next few weeks. I believe he sent another picture card from Hanover. If so, it should come today or tomorrow. 

Thursday, August 18, 2011

NEW PICTURES 8/19

There is a new batch of pictures over in the right column.  These are from the start of Connecticut to Wallingford Vermont.   Kipper, Chimp and Spork all got packages in Killington.  They took a down day, shared a motel room, got their clothes washed, showered and rested up for the balance of Vermont and the Whites through New Hampshire.  Everyone got their warm clothes and bags back in the mail. 
Ryan called Wednesday evening.  He has a new phone and is getting good reception. They should be breaking 1700 miles some time today.  They have under 500 miles to go and expect to finish the last week of September. Ryan said he'd keep in touch as much as possible and send updates for the blog.

  

Monday, August 15, 2011

Wallingford, VT 8/15

Ryan and Kipper made it into Wallingford, VT right after noon today.  Ryan was able to get his packages and now has ID and money again.  He said it was a great load off his mind.  It had been raining steadily since yesterday afternoon and the trip into Wallingord was a wet and slipper hike. 

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Moose Poop and Hummingbirds in Vermud 8/14

Ryan called Saturday morning to say that he was not going to make it into Wallingford on Saturday.  He would be there by Monday morning to get his packages.  He also asked that we move his warm clothes and sleeping bag shipment up from Hartford to Killington.  Over the past few days they have only been able to manage 13-15 miles per day.  They are getting to 4,000+ feet mountains again and progress is slowed due to the climbs and mud.  Night time temperatures are staying consistently in the 50’s with days running in the low 70’s. 

The woods continue to thicken and pines are becoming the predominant growth.  Sunlight making it to the forest floor is rare. Even without rain the trail tends to be wet and muddy. Hikers refer to Vermont as Vermud.  He said he has fallen more in the past 75 miles than he has the entire duration of the trail.  Every hiker you pass has a muddy rear end and pack where they have slipped and fallen.  The trick is to go immediately on your rear end and back to keep from getting hurt.  Lower elevations were needle covered but the slopes are exposed slick roots, rocks and mud.  No one has escaped busting their rear end.
For the first time they are seeing signs of Moose.  The trail is littered with droppings.  He referred to it as deer poop on steroids. Everyone is keeping their cameras ready to get a picture.  He said the woods here are also filled with hummingbirds.  They are constantly buzzing around and hovering briefly as if to look you over.   At first they thought the mosquitoes had grown to ridiculous proportions.
They camped Saturday night just outside Manchester Center.  They should have a couple of relatively short days getting into Wallingford.  Even without ID he was able to replace some of his worn gear at an Outfitter in Manchester Center.  His sleeping pad sprung a leak for the third time.  His water bottle developed a leak and his gaiter’s strap broke.  Here is the advantage of purchasing good outdoor gear. They have replaced every item without question.   
This next week will be a good warm up for the White Mountain to come.  They will be at elevation for most of the rest of the trip into Maine.  The White through New Hampshire will be the highlight of this section of the trail but wild swings in temperatures and weather are possible.  Ryan should have everything he needs to hike in the conditions. 
He will be calling from Wallingford Monday morning to let us know they made it in and hopefully send a SD card home. 
He openly admitted that the past week was fairly stressful, something he was avoiding, but he was settling down and once he gets his packages he’ll be fine.  He continues to hike with Kipper and the same group he’s been with for the past month.  They plan on staying together through the balance of the trip.  Many sections of the trail ahead are difficult and remote. Having other hikers to rely on is the safe bet.
In spite of the past week he is still upbeat, committed, and strong.  
Ryan specifically asked that I thank several people for the donations they have made this week.  He appreciates the assistance. Every dollar helps.   

Friday, August 12, 2011

Chilly in Vermont 8/12

We had a brief call from Ryan Thursday afternoon.  He was on a fire tower on the top of a mountain.  Phone service is very sketchy throughout Vermont and for the balance of his trip.  He said he was doing well.  He's averaging right around 20 miles/day but it is taking a lot longer to make this mileage than it has been.  He needs to get into Wallingford before noon on Saturday to get his package. If he doesn't make it he will have to hold over in Wallingford until Monday.  This package containes what ID we could get together, cash, and his ATM card replacement.  Oh yea, honey buns. 

We're immediately trying to get another drop set up for Hanover, New Hampshire.  He's in summer weight clothes and sleeping gear.  He wants his sleeping bag and some warmer clothes ASAP.  They were taken by surprise by the rapid drop in temperatures in Vermont.  For the past two weeks he's headed almost due north.   Right now they are about level with Upper Michigan so the temps will continue to drop.  The average temperatures in Vermont is still fairly high but there can be wild swings due to storms and the altitude through the White Mountains.  Nighttimes temps under freezing is not uncommon.  I checked yesterday and the temperature on Mount Washington was a low in the 30's with 85 mile per hour winds.  He's still a few weeks out from here but will be near this elevation several times in the coming weeks. 

He's been using a "pay as you go" ATT phone.  Looking at the coverage map he will start to completely lose service by the first of next week.  There appears to be some 3G coverage through N.H. and Maine.  We're going to try to get his Iphone hooked back up so he will have some sort of phone service in the coming month. He has his Iphone with him but is mainly using it as an Ipod. 

As long as he gets his package in Wallingford he'll be fine. I should know by Saturday afternoon. He told me Monday he was carrying enough food to get him into this coming weekend.  I'll post as soon as I find out.
He sounded in good spirits and was really enjoying Vermont.  He's never excited about hiking with a specific time agenda but making it into Wallingford is critical. 

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Vermont 8/9

Based on his GPS ping, Ryan entered Vermont this morning.  His hike has taken him 1,588 miles with 592 to go.    Ryan called Saturday and again on Sunday.  His Saturday call was upbeat and filled with trail details like a mouse getting into his food bag and more talk about the changes in weather and scenery he has seen through Massachusetts.  He talked about how great the people have been in New England. The weather has been consistently in the 70’s. He’s been averaging well over 20 miles per days for quite some time and felt that it was time to pull back a bit. This is the part of the trail he’s been wanting to see since Georgia. He describes the trail here as smooth and pine needle covered.  There are ponds, lakes and streams everywhere. He was starting to see a lot of ferns and interesting new undergrowth. He describes the woods here as having an almost Jurassic feel.  They will be hiking Mount Greylock in the coming days and he was looking forward to that.   

The only real negative he’s mentioned about this area is the size and veracity of the mosquitoes.   To quote the Spork: “Holy shit, they’re like rats with wings”. He’s asked that we help find some non Deet mosquito spray.  He’s not had much luck finding any.  His quest for honey buns has been equally nonproductive. 
Ryan started the trail at 162 lbs.  He weighed himself yesterday and weighed in at 137 lbs. His beard continues to grow at a 2/1 pace over the other hikers he is with.  He must be getting adequate protein or the beard is robbing his body of nutrients, or, the additional weight and wind resistance of the beard is burning extra calories.  He doesn’t appreciate the beard jokes nearly as much as we like telling them. 
He’s been hiking fairly steadily over the last month with Kipper, Chimp, Caboose, and Kwai.  Achilles who’s been part of this group is about two days behind and should catch up in the coming week.  He has talked about who they are and where they come from but I’ve not quite tied the names to the stories yet.  Their plan was to spend the night at a Hostel in Dalton, Mass. They heard of the place from other hikers.  The owner of the Hostel caters to through hikers and provides rides to and from the trailhead. As a former through hiker he refuses to accept a dime from any of the hikers.  Again, Ryan really praises the generosity and kindness of the people of this area to hikers. 
The call on Sunday was less pleasant.  Ryan and two other hikers had the unfortunate experience of running into a group of less than friendly locals in Dalton.  He also had the unpleasant experience of losing his money, wallet and identification.  The wallet issue has created many issues over the past two days.  It is simply impossible to replace a driver’s license if lost out of state.  The phone calls have been endless and futile. As it stands right now his Checking Card is being replaced and we’re setting up a mail drop to get it and what forms of identification we can find.  There was some discussion of coming back to Ohio for a couple of days to get his driver’s license but without photo ID he cannot get on a plane, train, or bus.  Renting a car is also impossible. 
I am sure Ryan will be more than willing to regale you with the details sometime this Winter.  But for now, it’s being taken care of and Ryan has made the decision to push on and finish the trip to Maine.  He felt that leaving the trail at this time would really put him in jeopardy of not finishing.  It is all part of the experience and not discussing it would only be telling part of the story.  He had the wind knocked out of his sails for a day or so but he’s back on track.  Again, trail magic has come to the rescue.  The gesture came as a simple act of kindness from a complete stranger, exactly what he was talking about on Saturday.  He lost track of the positive on Sunday but had regained it by Monday evening with an added note of caution.   People are generally good but the world also has a sprinkling of evil.  It adds contrast and keeps us from becoming complacent. Everything is working out.  A small post office in Vermont has agreed to let him accept a package without photo ID.  It should be to him by this Friday. 

He is fine and stomping through the woods somewhere in Southern Vermont. Hopefully, he will send home some pictures on Friday.      

Friday, August 5, 2011

New Pictures, Rattlesnakes, Beards, and Bogs - 8/4

There is a new group of pictures in the right column.  These are from entering New Jersey through New york and into Connecticut. 

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Massachusetts 8/3

Ryan called just minutes after making that last post.  He was in Massachusetts and was in particularly good spirits.  He said it was the prettiest day on the trail since leaving Georgia.  The temperature was in the low 70’s and they were sitting on top of a mountain eating lunch. In the valley below they could see three lakes and no roads or houses for as far as the eye could see.   He went on about the drastic change in scenery and temperatures.  He said it had been great sleeping weather and the woods in Connecticut and Mass were perfect for hiking.  The canopy shades the trail and undergrowth is minimal.  
The only down side he has found with his new latitude is a disturbing lack of honey buns in any of the trail stores.  He explained that honey buns are his latest trail craving and he considers them the perfect trail food.  They have lots of carbs, lots of calories, light weight, and they tasted as good smashed in your pack as they do fully inflated.  He said that water has been abundant for the last hundred miles and is coming primarily from natural springs along the trail.  A good water supply means less weight and better hydration.   So far the springs in New England have been abundant and clean.  He’s not had to filter water for days.  The water is pumping out of the ground cool, clear and clean.  Trail Maintainers and Rangers say that as long as you can see the source and it’s pumping right out of the ground you are safe to drink without filtering.  Water filtering on the trail is not only time consuming but expensive. 
Although I’ve never heard Ryan speak of the trip as anything but enjoyable, he spoke with particular reverence for the trail and the adventure.  As far away as the end still is, he seems to be looking forward to that day with both joy and sadness.   He really seemed intent on enjoying every moment of the next two months.  He refuses to leave Maine without a picture of a moose.  He’s very excite about hitting the White Mountains.  Southbound hikers often start in mid June and they are running into quite a few south bounders at this point.  Apparently, they are telling some intriguing stories of the Whites. 
He used that worn out phrase of finally “hitting his stride”.  He’s been saying that since South Carolina.  I think he’s there.  He is starting to get back into some elevation and was surprised just how easy the ups-and-downs have become. He said he is doing 2,000 feet of elevation change without a break, a drink, or even getting winded. 
It hard not to be somewhat envious. 
Still waiting on that picture disk!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

4 months, 11 states, 1500 miles 8/2

NYC down time to Massachusetts

Ryan camped last night about a mile from the Connecticut/Massachusetts border.  This represents the completion of his 11th state and 1,500 miles of hiking.  Today he has been on the trail for 119 days. Based on actual hiking days he has averaged 16.3 miles per day.  He has about 2 month to complete the last 680 miles of trail through Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine.  It’s unlikely that he will be able to average anywhere near these numbers through New Hampshire and Maine so it is important that he keep up an aggressive pace for the next few hundred miles.  Ryan said over the weekend that it was important to him to take the time to enjoy New England.
Most of the trail this week has been through dense State Forests and Reservations.  He said he was starting to see a significant change in the forest from new grown to older growth forest.  While it’s still been hot, nighttime temperatures are starting to fall into the 50’s the further north he progresses.  He will be changing gear in the next few weeks.   We’re planning a mail drop for Vermont. 
Looking forward to new pictures this week. 

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Pawling, NY - 7/30

Talked to Ryan on Friday.  He's been hiking by himself since leaving New York City.  He said it was a nice change of pace but expects to reconnect with the group some time after Pawling. He had just made it to Pawling, NY where he had a drop package at the Post Office.  He said the trail has smoothed out nicely through  NY.  The weather has cooled down and was in the low 80's Friday afternoon.   The rockiness of PA and NJ has given way to much larger boulder fields making for new scenery and a smoother trail.  He commented that he's been very surprised just how wild the woods have been through NJ and NY.  Wildlife has been abundant and he's run into very few other hikers.

He said much of the real hot weather has moved out of the area. He plans to walk 6 days per week and may end up taking a down day near Pawling depending on how nice campsites are aroud Pawling.  He said his pace has quickened to the point where he's often coverd 20 mile by just after lunch.  The tendancy is to push forward but time on the trail has taught him to set realistic goals and stick with them.  Saving his feet and not risking injury has beome the priority.  He's averaged over 20 miles for the past four days.   He should be in Connecticut by Sunday evening.   He bought his fourth pair of shoes in NY.  The rough trails in PA and NJ went through a pair of shoes in a little over 300 miles. 

He sent a picture disk home from Pawling.  These should be on the blog by mid week. 

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Back on the Trail - 7/26


Ryan took a train out of New York early this morning and is back on the trail today.  Monday morning he was interviewed by a reporter from the Clermont Sun.  I emailed her some pictures this afternoon for an article that will be in this Thursday's Clermont Sun Newpaper.  I talked to Ryan a couple of times while he was in New York and he was anxious to get back on the trail.
He is now officially in New England.  He has a little under 800 miles to Mount Katahdin.  This will be the most challenging part of the trail.  He will enter the longest stretches of wilderness, the highest mountains, the most significant change in scenery, and hike for the first time above tree line.  He was really pumped up about it.  His plan is to be at Baxter State Park in Maine by the end of September.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Journal Entry, Spork - 7/20


Almost 1,400 miles behind me. 1,400 miles, that doesn’t even seem possible.  It feels like I’m talking about someone else. I get these frequent rushes of just how much I enjoy this.  I learn something new every day about myself. I’ve gained a different perspective of who I am, why I am, and what life is about. The woods tend to take on an alien feel at times but less and less every day.  The woods are where I sleep.  They are where I eat, spend my day, and think. I appreciate a soft spot of ground to set up a tent. I appreciate the natural placement of a stump for sitting.  I appreciate the convenient scattering of dead wood for a fire.  It’s the little things out here and it’s the appreciation of the little things that makes the woods home.

All my days are basically the same and totally different at the same time. I normally wake up around seven or eight, stumble out of my tent and find out what new part of my body is sore. Food is the first thing on my mind. Food is always on my mind. I grab my food bag and take out a couple 430 calorie honey buns. I’ve fallen from the engineered hiking food tree right into the junk food aisle at the gas station.  I’ve come to realize that food is just fuel.  It’s like gasoline.  There are several grades but all propel the vehicle.  I try my best to eat as much protein as possible but calories are the gasoline that makes you go.  I am averaging around 10,000 per day and still having a hard time maintaining my weight.  6 months ago you couldn’t pay me to eat a honey bun.  This week, it’s my treat du jour.  Next week it will be something else.  I take them down in four bites. 860 calories in... Check.  The sweat starts to bead while I take my tent down and mentally prepare myself for the day.  Before I know it my pack is full and my campsite is empty. Some days I start to hike and feel great right away and others it takes 15 minutes to get my stride, but then, it’s on. I turn into a machine.
 I walk, I smile (sometimes breaking out into fits of laughter at a chipmunk that gets startled), I live. I have found myself cackling like a hyena at the antics of a four inch mammal. Around 12 or 1 I grab a seat on the "perfect" rock or log.  Sometimes it takes a while to find. I have walked an extra two or three miles in search of a sweet spot for grazing. Bacon, string cheese, and tortillas, maybe some Snyder’s pretzel nibblers if it’s a very good day. What do I do now? Walk.  By this point I’ve seen 30 chipmunks and squirrels, maybe a snake, a bear on a good day, birds, birds and more birds, and maybe one or two other hikers. Savages, how dare they intrude upon my home.     
Long distance hiking is a funny thing.  It takes a portion of your mind to keep you going but once the switch clicks the zone-out take over. My mind is all over the place. Random thoughts invade my head.  I think about what was going on 200 years ago where I’m walking, what the frog that just looked at me is thinking, how anyone could ever order a good steak well done.  I haven’t seen a snake in a while and every root morphs into one.   I make up new lyrics to old songs.  I make up new songs to old lyrics.   Sometimes I’ve walked 10 or 12 miles deep in thought before I have to stop and check where I am. I  quit long ago looking for white trail blazes.  My subconscious sees them and directs my movements.   You could solve the world’s problems on a long distance hike. 
Every day is a constant search for water.  Your world revolves entirely around water.  My day is like the spread of civilization.  People always settle near water.  I now know exactly why.  Where you have lunch, dinner, and camp must have access to water.  Thirst is a powerful motivator.
My world has recently turned into a friggin’ sauna, all day, every day. Water is tough to come by.  Many of the springs marked on the maps are dry.  Often potable water sources are mis-marked. The heat this week has averaged well into the upper 90s. The humidity is beyond description. The air is thick and soupy.  The vistas are smoky blue.  Planning your distances on the report that water exists at some point in the distance requires a lot of work. Being out of water is a crisis in this heat but it happens sometimes.  I used to flip out about these things but little rattles me these days. I feel much more in control.   When things go wrong the trail has a way of fixing it with something awesome that you didn’t expect. Maybe a cooler filled with water and Cokes, maybe an unexpected stream, or a fellow hiker that will hook you up with a liter of water. Trail magic is more than folk lore.  It is an almost expected and certainly anticipated part of the experience.  It’s really the last link to society.  It’s also a wonderful statement about the same. 
The pack always feels a bit heavier at the end of the day. Once you find the campsite, the pack comes off and the tent goes up. Now it’s time to eat.  I believe that I will remember every camp site I stayed at on the trail.  I think back over them now and they all seem clear. I have never slept so soundly.
I continue to surprise myself.  My latest surprise is the ability to walk 20 miles in temperatures over 100 degrees.  I’ve done it, several times.  Yet another challenge behind me.  I suppose you could say that you can do anything if you have to.  But the truth is it’s not what I have to do, it’s what I want to do. 

Pictures Harpers to NJ 6/30 - 7/17


There are new pictures in the right column.  These are the balance of pictures from Harper's Ferry and the trip throughout Maryland, Pennsylvania and into New Jersey.  There are several rattlesnake and bear encounters.  Ryan shot a movie of a bear and her cubs and we're working to get this on the blog ASAP.  He saw 5 bears, 5 rattlesnakes, and a copperhead on this leg.  

There are pictures of the ice cream challenge at Pine Grove and lots of rock scrambles.  It hard to fully understand the rock scrambles until you see the pictures.  Note in many of the rocky pictures that the white trail blazes go right up over the rocks.

Ryan also sent some journal entries and these will go on in the next couple of days.  He is currently in Brooklyn visiting Matt Oliver for a couple of days.  When I talked to him on Sunday he was web surfing pictures of the trail in New England.  He said he's really enjoying a day of street clothes and AC but is anxious to get back out on the trail.  He's meeting back up with his buddies on Tuesday morning to take a train out to the trail head.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

9th State, 1,357 Miles - 7/21

Ryan called Tuesday night (6/19).  He was in New Jersey.  He describes New Jersey as having a lot of rolling hills and small mountains in the southern section.  Over the past week he has seen more wildlife than anywhere yet on the trial.  He has seen 4 rattlesnakes, 5 bears, and the usually small mammals, turtles, snakes, and deer.  He promises pictures of all.  He said his bear count is at 16. This week he has seen much of the same weather we have been experiencing in Southern Ohio. It has been consistently in the mid 90’s with high humidity.  (As of this writing he has crossed over the New York State border and is camped at Greenwood Lake.  The temperature there today was 103.  At this point Ryan has crossed into his 9th state and has covered 1,357 miles of the AT.)   

The trail remained rocky through the last of Pennsylvania and all of  New Jersey. He has walked another pair of trial shoes off his feet.  He will be looking for new shoes as soon as he comes to a decent outfitter.  He said the soles of his hikers are smooth.  He is now in a full size larger shoe than when starting the trail.
 He describes the week as brutal. The mosquitoes and black flies have been relentless. Bug spray only seems to incite them.  In spite of the heat and bugs he has averaged well of 20 miles per day.  He had one stretch heading into Lehigh Gap where he covered 42 miles in 24 hours.   Much of this was night hiking. Much of this was hand over hand climbing.  Lehigh Gap has some of the more challenging rock scrambles south of the White Mountains. 
The biggest single challenge has been consuming enough water to avoid dehydration.  He’s been taking every opportunity to bathe in creeks and wherever he can find running water to stay cool and to rinse the salt that builds up with that amount of sweating. He described Tuesday night as a particularly challenging day and night.  The group he is hiking with often breaks up for a day or two and Ryan was catching back up with the group after a drop package pickup in town.   He hiked the day and late into the evening alone and got caught in an all night downpour complete with hail and lightning.  Bear activity in the area was extremely high and he was forced to camp off the trial, away from a shelter, and alone.  For the first time he decided to hang all of his food on a bear rope just in case. 
He caught back up to Kipper and Chimp on Wednesday around noon.  They are all hiking together again and all plan 2 off days this coming weekend in New York City.  Kipper has a sister that lives in NYC and a close friend of Ryan’s lives in Brooklyn.  They hope to be at Bear Mountain by Saturday and catch a train into the city until Monday.  They’ll take the same train back out to Bear Mountain and, as always, pick the trail up at the exact spot they left it.  Ryan has maintained his purist approach to the trail and has walked every mile since leaving Georgia.  He has done no blue blazing or walk-rounds.    
The past two weeks have been difficult with the heat and rocky trail.  Ryan said they are all pretty beat up.  He has a lot of blisters and a few days with dry clothes and feet will do them all good.  He’s hoping the weather will break a little cooler after the weekend. His spirits seem to be holding up better than his feet, but, he’s confident both will carry him to Maine. He will need to average 12.5 miles per day to make it to Baxter State Park by the end of September.  His response was “no sweat”.  He’s looking forward to New England and fall. 

I should have a new film disk and pictures posted by the weeked.