Phinal Fotos Finally Online! 

The last set of photos are online! They go from Pearisburg, VA to Springer Mountain (the end!) and a final "closing shot" of a cute crab on the beach in Northern Florida where I spent some time decompressing. hehe
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OCTOBER 29, 6pm EST, DONE!!! 
I should have posted this "hiking finale" entry last week, but only now found the time... I'M DONE! At 6am in the morning on Monday, October 29, I started walking from Neels Gap. I needed my headlamp for about an hour in order to combat the darkness before sunrise. After 30 miles of almost non-stop hiking, of which adrenaline absorbed any hint of fatigue, at 6pm I reached the summit of Springer Mountain! Knowing that the sun was going down, and my intention was to make it 8 more miles to the state park visitor center, I didn't spend too much time there - just long enough to snap some photos, relish the moment, check out the view, and text message Andrea. I then moved quickly to get off the mountain before losing natural light - I had been told that the trail was not an easy one and might be difficult in the dark (with a headlamp). Well, light most advice I'd heard on the trail, this was non-sense. The trail turned out to be all switch-backs, well marked, well worn, and very easy to navigate. Just as I started the day, I walked for perhaps 2 hours with my headlamp illuminating my path until I reached the side trail to the Amicalola Falls Lodge (7 miles from the summit) and decided to celebrate by getting a room. After several Cherry Cokes, my last of MANY wraps for dinner (chicken this time, at least it wasn't tuna!) and lots of lazy television I fell asleep... my last night on the trail. The next day I would be picked up by my old high school chum John to spend some time in the Atlanta, GA area, and this chapter would be closed.

Stay tuned for "the book"! In the mean time live with this tiny thought... "in the end, the AT wasn't really the adventure I was looking for, but it was the experience I was hoping for. The AT really isn't all that challenging - it's very populated, easy to follow, and far from 'remote'. Some people hike it to find themselves or the answer to some indescribable question, I hiked it simply to prove that I could walk 2200 miles. If I accidentally answered some of life's ultimate questions along the way, all the better."

Thanks to everyone for the support and encouragement, look ahead to 2009 where maybe I'll have the time/chance to hike the Pacific Crest Trail! ;)
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Ken called from Neels Gap tonight, which is 30 miles from the end of the AT! He expects to finish tomorrow, Monday October 29. His request, as he mentioned before, is that everyone get out for a walk at some point tomorrow to help commemorate his walk in the woods.

From Springer Mountain, GA he will go to Atlanta for a couple days, on to Florida next weekend, and then to NY to officially decompress from the hike.

Yay for Ken, and for all the AT thru hikers class of 2007!!!!!

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October 28-31??? And Thanks! And GEAR FAILURE 
1. I'm 160 miles from the end, and even at a "slow" pace that's 8 days for me, or October 30. At a more average pace it could be 6 or 7 days, so October 28 or 29. I'll give a final update when I hit Neels Gap which is 30 miles from Springer!!!

2. Thanks for the water drops and info! There's definitely been a lot of water at road crossings in TN/NC (VA was surprisingly unhelpful in this respect) and now GA! :)

3. Walking from my hotel room in Fontana Village, overlooking the majestic Smokies, I stepped on a stone funny and caused a strap to rip completely off my Chaco sandals - my primary footwear! The N.O.C. is in 30 miles and has a good footwear selection, and my Crocs can get me there if need-be... but with the help of an awl, screwdriver and zip-ties I have managed to temporarily repair my sandals AND reinforce the other straps close to ripping. Yay!

See you in 30 or 130 miles when I next have internet!
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October 31??? 
I'm randomly educating a guesstimate finish date! October 31st, Halloween! Just like when I was half way and suggested to some of you that you partake in the "1/2 Gallon Challenge" by eating some ice cream with me, I am now asking that on Oct 31 you get outside and walk! A short hike, walk, run, picnic, whatever! Celebrate my last day of hiking by getting outside! Keep checking the site for any changes, but for now plan on Halloween. I'll let you know if that changes.

I'm about to enter the Smokies and unfortunately had to put a few warmer articles of clothing in my pack (ohhhh the weight!) in anticipation of 30F temperatures. Once I'm through the Smokies I can shed those pounds though, so hopefully I'll be through by Sunday.

Gettin' there!
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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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