Well I am FINALLY in Tennessee and North Carolina! To welcome me, both states are throwing a "Winter Wonderland" festival just for me, or so it seems. Temps are dropping - but will go back up again - and I just might see frost any day now or even snow! Roan Mountain is within my sites and at 6285ft (no view, however) it will also be coooooold - I don't think I'll stay at that shelter, even though it's the highest on the AT!

On the plus side, after more than a month I have once again WALKED IN THE RAIN! It's been so dry that the last time I hiked in the rain was Duncannon, PA I think. The last time it rained (at night) was in the Shenandoah's. My second day in to TN/NC I had 4 hours of wet hiking and then it rained most of the night while I was warmly tucked away in a log cabin hostel. Ahhhhh... tonight I'm also staying in a [more modern] hostel, hence the internet.

Thanks Andrea for getting those photos online so quickly, and thanks to the Postal Service for delivering it - it only took, what, 14 days to go 200 miles? Figures, the one and only time I sent a flash card in the mail this happens. hehe

I was originally planning on some slow days and some zeroes (no miles) but the hostel owner today suggested I get through the Smokies ASAP before the cold sets in. So I think I'll do just that. Plus I think there are some new hikers gaining on me fast and I'm not ready to see them yet. :)

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Sept Photos 
After nearly two weeks, Ken's package to me with his latest batch of photos finally turned up.

***See new photos link at right.***

I also got to check in with Ken in Gettysburg, PA this weekend. No, he hadn't turned around and hiked back that whole way, but he did take a few days off and rode with new friends (thanks Geezer and Slow Barbara!) up to Gettysburg for the 25th annual "gathering" of the Appalachian Long Distance Hikers Association. It was great to catch up and meet lots of new people. We got to see some fabulous photos and film from other long distance hikes in the U.S., so I'm sure Ken has some more ideas now for his next adventure. We were both intrigued to hear about the latest extension of the International Appalachian Trail up in Newfoundland.

Ken got back on the AT this morning in Damascus, VA.

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459 miles to go! 
I'm in Damascus, VA just 4 miles from the NC/TN borders and can't wait to leave the state behind! Not that it's a bad state, but it's certainly the longest (600 or so miles). It's also been one of the most beautiful. Unfortunately the envelope I sent to Andrea with the memory card of photos is worryingly late in arriving, so hopefully we haven't lost them...

I saw 12 bear in the Shenandoah's and even walked underneath one that was hanging out 10 feet above my head eating acorns. I scared it just like it scared me and we both froze - then I hurriedly walked on and it remained frozen in a look of "maybe it didn't see me". Apparently they're eating the acorns early this year because of the drought. I do have (well, Andrea MIGHT have) photos of a mother bear in a tree 100' off the ground over a parking lot - with her 2 cubs - lunching.

As for this drought... it's bad. Worst in many years. And yet, so far as long as you can carry 10 miles worth of water you'll be ok - unfortunately how do you know this time it won't be 15 or 20 miles? The longest stretch I had was 16 miles, but if I were desperate I'm sure I could have take a detour to find water. These days I'm carrying 2-6 liters of water at a time which. With these mild temperatures I can easily hike the whole day with just 2 liters, but that's because I drink the most at night in camp, which is another 1-2 liters. So if I'm carrying 6 liters I can walk for 30 miles in one day, drink up at night, and still have 1/2 a liter for the morning which will last maybe 10 miles. So basically 6 liters can get me 40 miles, and I'll definitely find water in that time. The question is, how do I know when to carry 6 liters instead of 2? Educated guess, info from other hikes, and luck. :)

Well, my internet session is about to expire, time to go. I don't think I'll have another scheduled mail drop since I'm about 20 days away from finishing the AT! Go Ken Go! Oh, and once again I'm hiking in my solo bubble (since Front Royal, VA) but there are a few not far behind and a few 1-3 days ahead. Cheers!
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Done With Shenandoah 
848 miles to go! The funny thing is that 50% of that is in Virginia! It's such a big state. I'm in Waynesboro, VA which is the first town on the southern end of Shenandoah National Park. Shenandoah was great, the bears were plentiful (I saw about 10) and often hanging out above my head in the trees eating acorns! Water's still a problem and the little rain we just had doesn't seem to have made a difference.

There are a good number of southbounders behind me by a few days, so we're starting to come through the area.
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Off I go! 
As Andrea wrote the other day, I'm back on the trail. The first day back I was checking all the trail registers assuming I'd find a bunch of SOBOs ahead of me. To my surprise there were none! I camped, slept, and when I woke up in the morning two SOBOs pass me as I'm taking down camp! It happened too quick for the event to register and not even a single wave was exchanged. Five minutes later I'm coming out of the privy to find Smoky and Brit stopped for breakfast! Long story short I'm instantly in amongt 6 SOBOs (Smoky, Brit, Stoker, Quasi, Sweet Tea and Kiwi/Spoonman) and we all move about the same pace. I was hoping to walk alone through VA, but I can't pass up the chance to spend time with Brit and Smoky so I find myself taking a day off in Harpers Ferry whilst I wait for them to recover from some long days.

I do love Harpers Ferry though, so this works out great.


** BTW, thanks to everyone for checking this site and taking interest in my journey. When I am done with the trail I will be putting captions to my photos AND writing up my trip into a "book" format rather than these little blog summaries. The blog is just to whet your appetite. :) **

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On the Trail Again... 
After an extended visit, I dropped Ken back off at Del Mark Park, MD at 12:30pm today to start hiking again. A little more than 1,000 miles to go!

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1100 Mile Summary AVAILABLE! 
New summary available, look to the right...

Photos ARE NOW AVAILABLE! 07/24-08/25!
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1041 Miles! 
Well, I'm just a couple days away from the half way point - which I should hit this week! A couple days later I'll be with Andrea in DC for a few "zero days" (no mileage on the AT), so this will be a short but eventful week. I'm currently in Duncannon at the locally historic (and part of AT history) Doyle Hotel and find myself with 4 southbounders - 2 I've spent the past week with, 2 are jumping around the trail a little because they don't have enough time to complete the whole thing. Lady, Mr Wiffle, Jedi and Navigator. All great people. I also find myself with a potentially dangerous health condition and will be picking up some meds today - there's a chance I have acquired Giardia (intestinal parasite) and am in the early stages of it. I won't go into specifics, but it is easily treated and in 5 days of treatment I should be right as rain. It's possible it's something entirely different, or even just diet related (need more fiber), but the meds are safe and will kill whatever else it might be - or the Citrucil fiber supplement I'll buy today will be the key. Until I'm better I just need to keep hydrating and overeating. At least I've gained 3 pounds since VT, so I'm pretty sure I'm eating right otherwise.

I'll leave a more detailed summary of the trail once I hit DC, but here's the short version:
- VT was muddy and rainy!
- MA was buggy and less rainy
- CT was gentle, less bugs, and river walks (ahhhh)
- NY was virtually bug free, lots of small ups and downs
- NJ was over quickly, saw no bears, bug free
- PA is long but flat, springs and streams mostly DRY so carry lots of water

Oh, and my second Gregory backpack began to fall apart after a week. :(
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Fuzzy Ken 
Ken met up with a guy in Bear Mountain, NY and got to play with his iPhone. And so we get to see how fuzzy he was last week! (He's shaved since then.)

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Two "Zero" Days 
Adam, Sara and her father (Peter) met me to hike a 5.2 mile stretch of the AT up and over Bromley Mountain near Manchester, VT. Being about an hour from there, I decided to let them take me home with them to NY (conveniently also where my belongings and "base camp" are located). So I took Sunday and Monday off to re-gear, re-supply, and re-gain some of the 25 pounds my body has lost since I began. To be fair, only 15 pounds were from my core body weight (170 pounds) and the other 10 came from the weight I gained intentionally weeks before my start. I returned to civilization at 155 pounds - but a lot of fat has been converted to muscle so I prefer to say I'm in "marathon shape" rather than "skinny as a rail". :)

Anyway, I added two links on the right to help you find the photos! When I get time I'll add captions and organize them better, but one thing you realize when you get to town is that you have far too much stuff to do in too little time.

Tuesday morning (July 24) I'm hoping Sara can get me back to the trail - I'm anxious to see who's caught up and/or passed me!
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