Log-Rolling 101 or Careful Steps

As I write this post, Chief and I are actually enjoying a zeek (zero week) at the beach with our family.  This was a planned vacation that we have taken for many years — first with our own daughters when they were young, and now with their spouses and children.  To get here, Chief and I stopped hiking the Appalachian Trail in central Pennsylvania at Route 501, obtained a hiker shuttle to a car rental agency, drove to Virginia to pick up our car, and then drove our car to South Carolina.  We are staying at a lovely condo overlooking the beach.  Thanks to our friend, Pat, for the use of her home-away-from-home.  It is large enough for our entire family and we are enjoying it immensely.

Before we left the trail, Chief had started to learn about log-rolling.  This log-rolling is not in the political vote-trading sense, rather the act of standing on a log in water and rotating it rapidly.  We were hiking on a section of the Appalachian Trail that required crossing a small stream.  There were large rocks for stepping across the stream but Chief’s foot slipped so he tried catching himself by stepping on a log in the water.  The problem was that the log was not secured at either end of the bank so it just rotated.  His loss of balance landed the Chief in the stream getting him and his backpack rather wet.  Once we realized he was unhurt, it was pretty funny.  The moral of this story is that no hiker should try log-rolling on the trail or follow too closely behind Chief because you risk getting wet.

On a side note, ultra-marathoner Scott Jurek broke the record for the fastest Appalachian Trail supported hike on July 12, 2015 with a time of 46 days, 8 hours, 7 minutes.  He bested the previous record held by Jennifer Pharr Davis by three hours.  Scott averaged 47.2 miles per day from Georgia to Maine (total 2,189 miles).  Although we didn’t see him, Scott ran the A.T. in southern Virginia about the same time we went through that area.  Congratulations to Scott!

Over the past three months, Chief and I have hiked 1,193 miles of the Appalachian Trail from Springer Mountain, Georgia to Bethel, Pennsylvania.  We have completed six states (Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, and Maryland) and are halfway through PA.  There are 996 miles yet to hike.  As we previously mentioned, we have decided to flip our thru-hike — flying to Maine after our zeek  — and then hiking the remainder of the A.T. southbound (through Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey) and finish at Route 501, PA.  Our goal is to complete the Appalachian Trail by October 13th, which will be a total of six months on this adventure.

Our next post will come to you from Maine as we prepare to climb 5,270′ Mount Katahdin, the highest point in Maine and the northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail.   A recent devotion on the Jesus Calling app read, “Keep walking with Me along the path I have chosen for you… Together we will forge a pathway up the high mountain.  The journey is arduous at times, and you are weak.  Someday you will dance light-footed on the high peaks; but for now your walk is often plodding and heavy.  All I require of you is to take the next step, clinging to My hand for strength and direction… Stay on the path I have selected for you.  It is truly the path of Life.”

Faith in Christ and a higher purpose keep us moving step by step on this A.T. journey.  Before we again hit the trail, we are…

Enjoying The Beach, Chief and Toad



Too Much of a Good Thing?

Welcome to our new friends and followers, especially those we have met while hiking in Pennsylvania.   We also want to thank Mark Caudill of the Mansfield News Journal for a recent article about our Appalachian Trail hike.  Views on this website reached over 1,000 on the day the article was printed!

To bring you up-to-date, Chief and I returned to the Appalachian Trail in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia on July 5.  That marked Day 84 of our adventure and we were well rested after four zero days.  Let’s pause for some hiker lingo…

Zero day – no miles hiked;
Nero – nearly no miles hiked (typically less than 10 miles);
Zeek – a zero week.

As we were hiking out of Harpers Ferry, we met a hiker named Splitter.  He said he got his name after five days of splitting wood at Neels Gap, Georgia.  Splitter was a middle-aged comic and jokingly said he had rolled a lot of joints while on the trail–mostly his ankles.  We can relate to that.  The A.T. in West Virginia only encompasses six miles so we were in Maryland within a couple hours.  About midday, we hiked into Gathland State Park where Trail Angel Vickie greeted us with cold soda and fresh fruit.   Trail magic is always a welcomed treat even though it was our first day back on the trail.  We spent some time talking with Vickie and met another hiker, Maestro, a middle school and high school orchestra teacher from Charlotte, North Carolina.  This is Maestro’s fifth year of section hiking the A.T. during the summer.  The three of us would spend the next nine days hiking together, completing 41 miles of incredibly rocky trail in Maryland and on into the middle of Pennsylvania.  Although Maestro is a much stronger hiker, he stayed at our pace and led the way most of the time.

During the past few days, we had several opportunities for stops near the A.T. that sold ICE CREAM.  If hikers are known for one thing it is a voracious appetite, and ice cream is one of the best things to eat!  Pine Grove Furnace State Park in PA has a small general store that promotes a half-gallon Hershey’s ice cream club.  To join the club, a NOBO (northbound) hiker eats an entire half-gallon of ice cream to mark the halfway point on the trail to Maine.  This challenge is well publicized in hiker circles. When we arrived at the park, a thru-hiker named T.M.I. was slowly working to finish a container of ice cream.  A petite gal about age 30, T.M.I. looked a bit sick as she just gazed vacantly at the melted chocolate liquid in the bottom of her container.  “Are you feeling alright, T.M.I.,” I asked.  She said nothing but the look of nausea in her eyes spoke volumes.  Maestro, Chief and I ordered sandwiches for lunch and then we chose to split a half-gallon of butter pecan ice cream to celebrate our hike.  Chief gladly took the brunt of this dairy challenge but it never slowed him down a bit!  Just down the road stood the Appalachian Trail Museum, which we toured before we resumed hiking that afternoon.  As we were leaving, T.M.I. had successfully joined the ice cream half-gallon club but she wasn’t hitting the trail very quickly.

The next day Maestro, Chief and I crossed a road that led to Green Mountain Store and Deli.  Not willing to pass up an opportunity to eat, we walked the short distance and ordered deli sandwiches for lunch.  Chief purchased an entire bag of ice for his Coke but I stole some of the ice to sooth my swollen feet.  The store also sold Hershey’s ice cream so I chose a milkshake made with raspberry ice cream.  It was amazing!  Maestro looked on his phone and saw thunderstorm warnings so we sat on the store’s front porch for a while.  Not long after, terrible wind and rain ripped through the area.  The lights at the store flickered and we were so thankful for a dry spot instead of being out on the trail.  As we were preparing to leave after the storm passed, we saw T.M.I. walking up the road.  She was soaking wet from getting caught in the storm and we again felt bad for her.

On Day 89, we found several large trees had blown down across the trail from the previous day’s storm.  At times it made the hike difficult as we climbed through limbs and briars.  At other times, the trail through Pennsylvania paralleled corn and soybean fields and passed several farms.  I felt a pang of homesickness as this terrain reminded me of Ohio.  Our trio hiked into Boiling Springs, a tiny town in central Pennsylvania and had a wonderful lunch at Caffe 101.  As with our previous stops, the meal was completed with homemade 4-berry pie and vanilla ice cream.  Our stay that night was at the infamous Doyle Hotel in Duncannon, PA.  Now I have to clarify that the Doyle Hotel was built in 1905 and is one of the original Anheuser-Busch hotels.  It has amazing woodwork and architectural features; however, it has primarily served A.T. hikers for the past several years.  Having said that, the rooms are a bit rough and the decor looks as though it was last updated during the Nixon administration.  It happened to be Chief’s and my 35th wedding anniversary so he asked for their best room.  The “honeymoon suite” differed from other rooms in that it had a ceiling fan and a recliner that appeared to last belong to Archie Bunker.  I will say the bed was semi-comfortable and the sheets were clean.  At $35 per night, it was appropriately priced.  A real positive was that the food at the hotel was tasty and substantial.  Maestro, T.M.I., Chief and I walked to 3Bs for dessert — you guessed it — ice cream with homemade blueberry topping!

It was a hot July week of hiking 124 miles and we have no regrets for consuming a gazillion calories of ice cream.  There is no such thing as too much ice cream!

Enjoying God’s Good Gifts, Chief and Toad

A Ticket To Ride

Our Ohio friends are quite familiar with Cedar Point Amusement Park and the amazing roller coaster rides at that park.  Chief and I, along with fellow hiker Tiger Mike, recently experienced the dreaded “Roller Coaster” on the Appalachian Trail in northern Virginia.  This was not a thrill ride completed in seconds, rather a grueling eight-hour hike that covered more than thirteen miles of rocky ascents and descents.  The highest climb was a challenging 2,000 feet and then immediately descended.  Over and over we put one foot in front of the other as we navigated the steep hills and tricky rock-studded terrain.   The Roller Coaster left us gasping for air at the top of each hill and nursing sore knees and feet at the bottom.  It was undoubtedly one of the toughest days of hiking we had experienced in the last 78 days.  About halfway through the Roller Coaster, we crossed a county road and were unexpectedly greeted with trail magic.  A former thru-hiker, No Pants, was there to share cold soda, fresh fruit, chips, and Little Debbie snacks with passing hikers.  No Pants also interviewed us for a documentary that he is producing about A.T. hikers.  Chief, Tiger Mike, and I agreed that the trail magic was the only thing that got us through the rigorous Roller Coaster.  That day the three of us hiked a total of 21 miles in order to get to the shelter by dusk and position ourselves for a short hike into Harpers Ferry, West Virginia the following day.

On a side note, this is a point on the A.T. where some of the younger hikers take on the “4 State Challenge”.  Over a 24-hour period, a hiker attempts to travel a 43-mile section of the Appalachian Trail across the borders of Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania. Just to be clear, we are NOT pursuing this ride!

On Day 79, Chief and I awoke early, packed our gear and hit the trail with Tiger Mike by 6:30 a.m.  We were all experiencing swollen feet and fatigued muscles but nevertheless were mentally invigorated by our accomplishment over the Roller Coaster the previous day. We had only eight miles to hike to Harpers Ferry, the “spiritual halfway point” on the A.T.  Harpers Ferry (Mile 1,022) is the home of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy that registers and tracks thru-hikers.   Our hike took less than four hours when we descended a hill and were met with the stunning site of the Shenandoah River.  We were joined by one of Tiger Mike’s friends, Home Fry, who hiked the remainder of the way with us.  Since the date was June 30th, many thru-hikers arrived at the Conservancy as this seemed to be a goal date for thru-hikers to reach this halfway point.  The Conservancy is housed in a small historic stone building and the front was lined with backpacks and weary hikers when we arrived before noon.  Chief and I had the ceremonial photo taken in front of the building and then took advantage of the cold soda and ice tea available for hikers.  Chief, Tiger Mike, Home Fry and I met up with Log, her dog Yoyo, and Old School, and then walked the short distance to the historical downtown for a celebratory meal.  We were surprised to see No Pants in town and he joined the group for lunch.  As Chief and I enjoyed a delicious hamburger and crab cake, Yoyo slept peacefully under our chairs.  Our time at lunch was enjoyable and relaxing as the group reminisced about our Appalachian Trail journey thus far and the many hikers we’d met over our first thousand trail miles.   When we returned to the Conservancy, we found fellow hiker, Juice, who had made his halfway point.  The afternoon was even more joyous when our daughter and granddaughter arrived to pick us up for a few days of rest and relaxation.

In a bittersweet turn, our time with these hiker-friends has ended as Chief and I will fall behind the others by taking four zero days to visit with our daughter’s family over the July 4th weekend.  We will return to Harpers Ferry on July 5 to hike NOBO (northbound) for ten more days.  We have decided to then flip-flop our Appalachian Trail hike so that we don’t get into bad weather in Maine in October and not be able to finish our hike.  We have purchased tickets to fly to Bangor, Maine the end of July and then hike SOBO (southbound) for the remainder of the trail.  We will still cover all 2,189 miles, just in two different directions.  In Maine, we will first summit Mount Katahdin and then hike SOBO until we get to the point where we stopped hiking NOBO.  Our chances of avoiding bad weather will be greatly increased, although the higher elevation mountains in New England can still have cold temperatures and snow even in summer.  We also have the added benefit of potentially passing NOBO hikers with whom we’ve lost contact.

As we write this post, Chief and I are enjoying a much needed rest and realizing we already need our third pair of hiking shoes.  This journey has been exhausting yet exhilarating, grueling yet rewarding.  Thanks go out to YOU – our family, friends, and followers for your support, encouragement and prayers.  God’s grace and your support keep us moving forward.  Please remember the “Hike for John” – the fundraising efforts for the Gurney family.

We can’t wait to see what the next 1,100 miles will bring.

Halfway On This Wild Ride, Chief and Toad