From Springer Mountain Georgia to Mt. Katahdin Maine

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Tough as a bulldog

As the gang slogs through the coal country of Pennsylvania from Hamburg to just north and west of Allentown...wait a minute, didn't Billy Joel sing a song?


Allentown is famous for Bulldogs, Mack Truck bulldogs.  But alas, as Billy Joel sings the factory has been moved to North Carolina, and the company is now owned by Volvo trucks.  

They have a few more weeks of the mid-Atlantic section of the trail and then they move into New England.  Macon says they hike along sides roads as often as they are back in the woods.  But hey, the cell phone reception is way better that way.  Hopefully we will hear more soon, in the mean time try and remember where you were in the early eighties.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Windsor Furnace

Camping at Windsor Furnace Shelter tonight, about 5 miles outside of Hamburg, PA. We hiked 9 miles in this morning to resupply and do laundry. It's funny how I've stopped looking forward to town days - I've realized it's much more stressful & costly than living in the woods. In the beginning it was an exhausting process of getting used to living in the woods and town was a comfort. Now I prefer my tent on the earth to a bunkhouse, dry lunch on a rock overlook to an all-you-can-eat buffet, and definitely the simple task of walking north to the hustle bustle of laundry and re-supplying. That said, it's a treat to re-enter with clean clothes again. I was talking to a friend recently and shared how that morning I'd put on my stinky hiking shirt, still wet with sweat from the day before. She was pretty horrified, but for better or for worse, it's pretty common. I've worn the same purple everyday that I've gone hiking so far.

Hiking underneath I81
Tatertot stayed in town tonight. She has hit that point of just needing a room to herself (I hit that point last week in Boiling Springs). Pants and I are headed out around 6. We got a ride back to the trail from a real nice lady named Lois. Gribley's dad drove over on Sunday to hike for a few days so Gribley pushed 25 miles yesterday to meet him last night and they headed out this morning.

My group is starting to feel more like siblings and no longer like new friends. We are becoming brutally honest with each other, bicker with increased frequency, and realize we need time apart occasionally. At the same time, there is sincere love and care between us. We share everything and are always looking out for each other. After 1100 miles together, we know each other so well and have countless inside jokes. We laugh all day long, which I think is a big reason this trip has been so great - laughter and joy are so healthy!

Rocky trail
Pants was breaking in new boots the other day and so he stopped to camp early while the rest of us kept going. We never saw or heard from him and Tater and I were getting worried and kept checking out phones to see if he'd texted. We finally got a message that he'd been bitten by a rattlesnake and was off the trail.. Shocked and upset we called him and left concerned voicemails and started to get really upset until he texted again that It was all a joke. We immediately went into bossy older sister mode, threatening that we would strangle him with a rattlesnake and continued to yell at him all day for scaring us like that. It's pretty funny in hindsight but boy were we mad.

1200 miles hiked
As much fun as we have, we all have experienced the half-way blues in some way or another. We pushed hard to get into Harpers Ferry and celebrated crossing the actual mid-way mile marker. As of two days ago we are less than 1,000 miles from Katahdin and also crosses the 1200 mile mark. It is super exciting to note all our milestone achievements but there is also the overwhelming sense that we have yet so far to go, and the hardest is yet to come. We stayed at the 501 shelter the other night with Squatch, a documentary filmmaker who told us they when we get to New Hampshire, we will have completed 80% of the journey but only exerted 20% of the effort.. Which is rather daunting.

This is especially tough right now in Pennsylvania as we travel across low lands, filled with bugs and humidity. To be honest, the rocks aren't as bad as I anticipated, but my feet are still really sore. My ankles, which I've had no problem with this whole trip are now a little tender as I carefully balance over uneven rocks on the trail.

Overall though, I'm still incredibly happy out here. I had a low point the other day at the start of rocks and bugs and then remembered that I really want to be out here. Back in my stressful office days in NYC, this is what I fantasized about. I love not knowing what day of the week it is, and that it doesn't matter anyway. We always joke, "there are no parents here, we can do whatever we want!" and I love that spirit of freedom. If I'm tired and want to stop hiking, I can. If I'm feeling strong and want to push on five more miles, I can do that as well. It'a incredibly liberating to have everything you need on your back and the freedom to eat and sleep wherever you choose.

Leaving Hamburg, PA
Okay, bed time for me, 20+ miles on tap for tomorrow!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The Doyle Hotel in Duncannon, Pennsylvania

The Doyle Hotel
After a wonderful time in Duncannon, PA, I'm back in the woods. Word on the street is that the heat index is around 107 and our hangovers from beers at the Doyle aren't helping the situation. Currently, I'm up on a rock view point in the shade. Pants and Gribley are napping and I thought it would be a good time to catch up on the blog. We joke that out here blog posts sometimes feel like homework that we put off doing. However with my new iPhone and the improved cell service, I figured I can and should be writing more often.

Cool topography at the Doyle Hotel
Let's see, the day BeBop left we camped just outside Boiling Springs and hiked the four miles into town in the rain. We intended to just get breakfast and leave, but fell in love and decided to stay the afternoon & night. We stayed at the Allenberry Resort & Playhouse and it was fun & restful. We still planned to hike into Duncannon Tuesday night but that meant doing a big 25 mile day. We set out that morning and knocked out the first 10 miles. We met a trail angel and past thru-hiker, Mossy Brown, who offered to take our packs to the Doyle while we carried only water & snacks. It was still a long day, but we weren't nearly as tired as we would have been with our packs.

We got in around 9pm and checked in and picked up two large pizzas from the pizzeria across the street. We picked up some six packs, kicked back on the balcony overlooking Main Street, and enjoyed a warm summer evening breeze.

I woke up early yesterday morning and started writing this entry:
Pants at the jukebox

It's 7am, and I just woke up. I'm laying on my sleeping bag, on a bed, listening to the soft whiz of cars driving by. Both windows are open and I feel the cool breeze from the ceiling fan. Gribley and Pants are still sleeping and Tater is hiking in this morning.

Ha that's about as far as I got before everyone started stirring. Tater arrived shortly after and we all got up & showered, etc. Yesterday was the summer solstice, the hottest day of the year so far AND my three month anniversary of being on the trail - all good reasons to start drinking cold pale ales at 11am inside the Doyle bar (the only room with AC). It was a great day - I took a nap, we resupplied our food stash until Hamburg, and just hung out with other hikers who were just as charmed with the Doyle as we were.

To share some of the back story, the building was built in the 1700s but burned down. The current structure was built in 1905 and I don't think too much has been done since then by way of renovation or upkeep.. Run down but charming and oozing with personality. Downtown Duncannon reminded me of what Broughton Street in Savannah must have been like in the 80s.

The trail is still going well. It has really begun to sink in that I'm just a little over halfway of this crazy adventure. I've left the South and the area of the country that I'm familiar with. I'm excited and nervous about hiking north and towards Maine. That's about it for now but I'm hoping to write more frequently from now on.

upstairs banister

Daystar's room

Ladies Entrance

Gribley and Pants arrive in Duncannon.  (Real men wear pink)
Pants and Gribley

pulled pork sandwhich and beer for lunch
the bar at the Doyle Hotel
a house near the Doyle Hotel
a balcony at the Doyle Hotel


More blogs to read - Gribley's blog
Gribley writes well with wonderful insights about nature and the trail.  It's definitely worth checking out.  If you go to and enter "Gribley" in the search box, his blog will come up.  If you're really interested, there are many blogs at this site to peruse. - Tatertot's blog
Tatertot has some fabulous pictures along with interesting updates of progress along the trail.

Look for a Boiling Springs post and a Duncanon post from Daystar in the next day or so.  She and her fellow hikers are staying another night at the Doyle in Duncanon.  They love the old hotel, the owners, and the interesting old-school architectural features - hardwood, thick doors, ironwork.... she'll be posting lots of pics too.  Stay tuned.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Tales from the Trail by Bebop

BeBop and Daystar at the farm 
Well gang, my stretch on the Appalachian Trail has come to an end. I am in New York City awaiting my bus to camp tomorrow. I am extremely sad to leave the trail, but so excited to move on to my next adventure. Daystar and the gang were off to Boiling Springs, PA when I left. They are all doing fantastic, full of joy and laughter, loving every day of their hike.

Mom and Dad have been advertising my "reflective post." I thought I would blog more from the trail, but it's hard with such busy days. And it's even harder now to sum up the past month.  Simply put, the trail is incredible. It might be a bit cliché to say, but it is impossible to leave unchanged. Everyday is full of new experiences. Most of my days were spent simply walking, usually 15 to 20 miles. You would think such a simple task would become mundane, or boring, but surprisingly there was never a dull moment. I loved looking around and admiring the different types of forest and wildlife that surrounded me. I gained a new appreciation for the little things - who knew how good a shower and warm bed could be? I learned all about trail lingo and the culture of the Appalachian Trail - Bob Pebbles is the new Chuck Norris,  Crocs are the cool shoes to have, and AWOL knows all. I met an array of characters who I will tell stories about for years. And the simplicity. Trail life is so simple. All I had to worry about was finding the next water source or whether I should cook a Knorr pasta side for dinner or pasta shells with garlic. Needless to say, I had an unforgettable hike. 

What impressed me the most about the AT was the community. The trail brings people from all walks of life together for a single purpose -- to hike. I met a wide range of characters -- day hikers, sections hikers, and thru-hikers, all with different backgrounds and experiences. There is a joyfulness that is contagious. Everyone is happy to be there. And it is impossible not to be happy, too.

In my four weeks, I walked a total of 402 miles in four states, ate a half gallon of ice cream, saw six bears, hiked 34 miles in one day, met loads of hikers, and much much more. Over the next week, there will be separate post for each week I was on the trail and my favorite stories. 

Happy trails,

Kick off time for the second half

Daystar and Bebop wait for Junker
Okay, the half time adjustments have been made for the team.  Bebop has peeled off from the group and is headed to New York City to prepare for her work at The Fresh Air Fund summer camp in upstate New York.  She caught a ride from Junker to the train station in Harrisburg, PA.  From there she took the Sunday afternoon train into NYC.   Tatertot has rejoined the group after hiking with her dad, and now they have their collective heads down, literally watching for the 200 miles of rocks and stones along the AT through Pennsylvania. 
Doyle Hotel

On Saturday they met their ice cream half gallon challenge, and Daystar said it was one of the most physically punishing aspects of the trek so far.  She chose "mint" flavored ice cream.  And she completed the challenge. 

They will stop at the Doyle Hotel in Duncannon, PA  Tuesday to pick up a few items shipped from Amazon (thanks mom) like fresh insoles to help with the terrain ahead.  I think they are ready to get after it and make up some time through this section of the trail.  By make up some time, Daystar told her mother that for the last few weeks they have been meeting lots of people along the trail.   There have been stops to visit people and deadlines to meet.   While they loved all the visits with friends and are very appreciative of the many kindnesses and generosity they've received, it's now time to hunker down.   Bebop is gone, and the crew has the trail as its only focus for the next several weeks.

While we post many pictures of the social side of the AT (meeting up with friends, nights out, trail magic, etc), Daystar remined her mother that most days are spent hiking - like 8 to 10 hours day.  She sounded good but very tired.  I think the plan is to stay at the Doyle for a night and really rest for the rocky stretch. 

BTW if you have access to Netflix I heartily recommend the National Geographic documentary of The Appalachian Trail.  It is flawlessly produced, albeit a little thin in some aspects of the trail but the aerial footage is very nice.  Daystar, however, having experienced the trail firsthand does not think it's a good as I thought. 

Look for more pics to come in the next few days and a reflective post from Bebop. 

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Half Time Report

It's halftime here on "Trekking Macon."  No, we don't have Madonna to play while our hikers get ready for the second half, but we do have a YouTube video of what is arguably the best Super Bowl halftime show ever.

Gentle readers, Macon arrived at Harpers Ferry West (by God) Virginia Saturday.  She spoke at length with her mother Sunday morning and the following is an assessment of her psyche and her mother's psyche.  Daystar is good.  I am confident that she will complete the trail barring any injury or accident along the second half of the trail.  I know that she has fully embraced the experience and is almost slowing to savor each day and each experience.  It has been answered parent-prayer that she has run into so many nice people along the trail whose generosity toward hikers is matched only by the enthusiasm of the hikers.  Daystar is fortunate to have fallen in with other hikers who share the desire to complete the trek and have personalities that are so compatible.  I know that Daystar no longer remembers the schedule and regimen that Macon had planned so meticulously for completing the hike.  Macon has grown into Daystar, and I believe her group has experienced a similar transformation.  I remember Macon telling me that Warren (Doyle) was insistent that the trail will not compromise, it will not discriminate, it will not change; that is up to you, the hiker.  It has happened.
Daystar and Bebop
As for the Frizz, she is tired, but she is excited.  When we know that Daystar is approaching an area with cell service, she eagerly awaits the updates.  The Frizz loves hearing the stories and the adventures.  I think it stirs ancient memories of being a camp counselor and she likes that.  We are having to physically let go as the drive time is almost to double digits in hours to reach Daystar.  Thankfully, Gribley's parents were at Harpers Ferry to take the hikers to a restaurant and look after them.  It is good to let other people lend a hand and share the excitement of the vicarious hike.  So as Daystar and her crew head above the Mason-Dixon line, we bid them good luck and safe travels. 

Now is the time to begin the transition from planning to closure on this trek.  While there remains another thousand (1000+) miles to be hiked, we can not help but let our thoughts wander toward New Hampshire and ultimately Maine.  Right now we can only imagine what adventures await our crew of hikers.  As a parent and part of the support team, this trek has opened my eyes to an entire sub-culture that exists as part of the Trail "experience" and I am grateful to thus far having been part of it. This culture derives its identity from the Trail, and it is composed of hikers, former hikers, folks planning to hike, and all the supporters who share the joy of the adventure that is the Appalachian Trail.  I've observed generosity, simplicity, anonymity, magic, idealism, reality, weather in the raw, a common dream, humor, and shared experiences.

When the end of the trek is near, the tentative plan is for the Frizz to meet her sister in Atlanta.  The two of them will fly stand-by to Maine, rent a car and meet the gang at Katahdin then fly back stand-by.  I don't see the group finishing much earlier than mid-to-late August. 
But what really remains are the bits and pieces that are untold at this point and will be remembered and shared sometime into the future by not only Daystar, but Bebop, and the Frizz as well. 

So as they head out this week, it is time to kick-off the second half of the trek.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Dinner at the farm

Bebop has promised a lengthy post once she arrives in NYC for the transition to camp.  She will be leaving the trail this upcoming weekend and reporting to her summer camp job in Fishkill, NY on Tuesday.  This week Sewanee friends - Aimee and Campbell - have treated the hikers to some fabulous trail magic and dinner at the farm.  Wonderful, generous friends!   Thank you!
Tonight, Daystar, Pants, Gribley and Cole are guests at Campbell's farm in Maryland which is near the trail.  Details are limited so enjoy the pics (all art directed and shot by Daystar) ... 
Bebop and Campbell

Gribley and Bebop

Monday, June 11, 2012

Daystar arrives in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia

On the wall in the ATC (Appalachian Trail Conservancy) in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia

Lighthouse, Gribley, Pants, and Daystar arrive in Harpers Ferry, W V
Pictues in "the AT book" at the Appalachian Trail Center

New shoes were waiting at the pick up in the ATC
Bathtime for Daystar's pack

Pants received 40 pounds of resupply from home.
On the wall at the ATC (Katahdin in Maine is the last peak of the AT)

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Daystar has hiked 1000 miles!

Daystar texted this morning from the Blackburn Trail Center, due west of Washington, DC.  She and her fellow hikers are going 12 miles today to reach Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, where Daystar and Bebop plan to meet up with friends and take a day or two off the trail.  This past week they hit the 1000 mile mark, the Virginia-West Virginia border.  They also hiked the Roller Coaster, a 13.5 miles section with 10 ascents and descents of viewless rocky ridges.  Here are the pictures of Daystar, Gribley, and Pants at the 1000 mile mark.