And The Hike That Was

Finally got the car issues straightened out and made the trip over to Thunder Ridge Overlook to hammer out a few quick miles on the AT. This hike featured a perfect morning with bright yellow leaves above and below us, and a temperate sixty degrees at the start. An ideal setting for my son-in-law to break in his new Merrells.

We headed out with light packs, planning on a quick five mile round tripper. The leaves on the trail made for a satisfying fall crunch as we trekked our way north. A mile in we passed a trio doing a SOBO section hike, and stopped for a quick chat. A short while later a solo young lady was coming down the trail towards us with a fully outfitted pack (she would be followed a moment later by her hiking partner, a young man similarly outfitted). Turns out they were SOBO thru-hikers, and after talking to them and getting some details of their hike, we cut them loose to continue on their way. I really dislike holding up thru-hikers with idle chatter, knowing that they’re mission minded with planned daily miles. We passed three other SOBO hikers a few minutes later but left those hardy souls alone to carry on.

I was struck by the stark contrast of this bare tree about 1.5 miles in and stopped to grab a quick shot:

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We marched on, traversing a series of short up-and-downs to the planned turnaround (we actually got to talking and went to 2.75 miles, so wound up with 5.5 total), stopped for a quick hydration break, then did a one-eighty and headed for home.

We passed a couple on our way back who were doing a section from Dragon’s Tooth to the James River Foot Bridge (about 85 miles). Turns out they were brother and sister, he in his early sixties, she close to seventy. They seemed to be having the time of their lives out on the trail. And that’s the point, isn’t it? I’m sure when I do my first multi-day section hike I’ll be thrilled to be out there too!

We pushed up the final hill to the Overlook, and I went for the cheesy hiker shot:

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I actually considered standing on the rim, but didn’t want to risk becoming part of a news story containing the phrase, “and fell several hundred feet to his death.”

It was good to be back out there. We’re planning a trip by month’s end down to Daleville to do a ten mile out-and-back to the Fullhardt Knob Shelter. In the meantime, I’m scouting out my next solo hike…

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Almost As If On Cue…

…the young couple whose exploits I was following, they¬†who vanished from their online AT thru-hike journal for over five weeks, materialized from the internet mist three days after my post here last week, delivering multi-day chunks of news in an effort to catch up those of us following them. It was a relief to see that they were still in good health and spirits! The pair had, since their last writing, hammered through New Hampshire (those Whites!) and had made their way up and down the bulk of Maine and into the Hundred Mile Wilderness before their journaling ended. Their last entry was dated September 21st, so I’m assuming they finished their quest and took their photos atop the “Northern Terminus” sign on Katahdin.

I’ll be checking back to make sure, of course. Just like I did during their five weeks of silence. In the meantime, fall hiking season, my absolute favorite, is upon me. I need to start planning some disappearing acts of my own…

(Update, September 29: They did indeed finish, and posted a photo of themselves smiling on top of the sign yesterday. Well done!)

When A Journal Writer “Disappears” From The Trail

At the beginning of thru-hiker season, I picked out two hiker journals to follow, the same as I did the previous year. As I detailed in an earlier post in March, these two souls barely hit fifty miles before abandoning their respective quests. So, given how early it was in the Springer-to-Katahdin season, I chose two more journals to follow.

The first, a solo guy in my age group, wrote detailed daily journal entries filled with poetry, photos and personal observations that went beyond the typical “The weather sucked today. I ate Pop Tarts for breakfast and saw a rat snake.” type of journal post. He stayed positive through his hardships and finished his hike.

The second, the young couple I chose to follow, didn’t maintain the high level of journaling that the solo guy did. And that’s okay. “Journal your own journal” feels just as right as “Hike your own hike” does. They gave the basics and a good sense of how they were doing on their journey. Perfectly satisfactory.

Until they dropped off the journaling planet.

It’s been five weeks since they’ve posted, leading one person following their trek to write a concerned note in their guest book. I too have wondered if they’re okay. But I’m more inclined to believe that they just let their journal wither. An analytical reader could almost see it coming. They went from posting almost daily, to posting groups of entries at the same time in an effort to catch up, to lumping multiple days into one post.

Then silence.

They last wrote about leaving Vermont. If everything went well over the last five weeks or so, they’ve probably finished or nearly finished by now (Baxter State Park closes soon; if they haven’t completed the trip, they need to hustle!). I hope they were successful, and are getting all of their notes put together so those of us who followed them can hear the final details of their journey…