They’re Off

  Springer Mountain, GA, March 6, 2016 — Denise crunched her first gravel about noon on the way to Hawk Mountain campground. 

  
The campground was built in record time. That’s the good news. It’s going to need improvements if it has a chance of becoming a hit with hikers. 

The 42 sites are muddy and most will flood in heavy rain. The “bear box” food storage and the privy were popular  with the 14 hikers there, but they were looking for cooking areas and fire rings to socialize. 

Oh, and one wag complained that the water was so far away that it seemed like Alabama. 

   
    
 
We stumbled into some trail magic from Psycho Bob the next day. 

  
Very tasty southern hot dawgs. 

Onward!

Deja Vu – All Over Again 

  
 Hiawassee, GA, March 8, 2016 — You can see the excitement, feel the hope and smell the anxiety. 

The 2016 Appalachian Trail thru hiking season has begun and the numbers are up significantly. 
I’m in Georgia to hike the first 80 miles with my Hoodlum Trail Crew colleague and friend Denise. We start tomorrow. 

  
Meanwhile I’ve been hanging out at the Top of Georgia Hostel and jawing with the hikers. The place was packed to the max last night and the vibe reminded me of a movie on fast forward. 

This time of year brings out the thoughtful hikers who have planned ahead. They are a pleasure to be around. That description will adjust itself over time. 

Hats off to whoever planned the weather. Those who followed this blog last year read about the near constant cold, snow, sleet and rain. 

It’s the opposite this year. The highs are in the 60s and 70s with lows in the 50s. Only fifty percent chance of rain next weekend. Wow! is all I can say. 

Note to hikers, this weather pattern is not likely to hold. Don’t ship your winter gear home just yet. Mother Nature has a cruel sense of humor. 

  
Speaking of comedy, Bob “Sir Packs-a-Lot” Gabrielsen owner of the Top of Georgia and Mathew “Odie” Norman who founded the Hiker Yearbook could not resist themselves last night. 

Onward to Hawk Mountain!

THE FIRST SIGN OF SPRING

This amazing person is attempting to hike all three of the triple crown trails within 12 months! Time will tell how the abundant snow in the west this year will affect her progress. If you’re interested in adventure, I encourage you to follow her blog.

MARRIED TO THE TRAIL

THE FIRST SIGN OF SPRING
Miles 916.5 to 993
Shenandoah National Park to Rod Hollow Shelter, VA

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When I first crossed over the boundary and into Shenandoah National Park, I was guided by the light of my headlamp. The wind howled as I looked for a place to cowgirl camp, and a few stray bits of gropple perked my curiosity. Earlier that day, I could see the brewing of a winter storm on the western horizon. Fortunately, where I was headed, the weather forecast called for a 1% chance of precipitation that night, followed by days of sunshine. For all of those who prayed for my safety and warmth, I can’t thank you enough.

The hike through the park was no doubt beautiful, but it still bewilders me to walk along a footpath that is so intimately intertwined with Skyline Drive, where license plates as far as Colorado drove along…

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Adventure Season 2016

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Kensington, MD, March 2, 2016 — It’s that time of year again when the call of the wild echos through the ether.  This is when we plan, pack, lace ’em up and get it on.

The year starts in Georgia on the AT.  For one, I’m anxious to see if all the planning we have done to manage the early crowds actually is beneficial. All I know is that a lot of time and energy have gone into the improvements.

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Next it’s the National Park Service’s centennial.  Shenandoah has challenged folks to celebrate by hiking a hundred miles in the park in return for a free patch. My friend and first hiking partner Mary and her son Ben will be hiking there on a 600 mile-long AT section hike in mid-April.  I plan to tag along for all 105 of Shenandoah’s miles.

From there it gets fuzzier.  I have my ridgerunner hikes and trail crew week – only one this year. I’m signed up for a Leave No Trace master educator course and a talk on backpacking at Sky Meadows State Park, Va. for National Trails Day.

We’ve hired two returning ridgerunners and four new folks for this season.  More on them at another time.

There’s an opportunity to hike the northern half (Oregon and Washington) of the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) and/or the Colorado Trail.  Lastly, once school is back in session, finishing the Long Trail in Vermont is carved in stone after having to miss it last year.

I’m learning not to predict too much.  Plans do not survive contact with reality, and this year reality is holding a lot of face cards.   I’ve taken on some executive responsibility with my trail club that’s going to eat time, and have been nominated for a professional lifetime career honor that, if selected, I will accept in person come hell or high water.

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Top of the first inning is the southern terminus of the Appalachian Trail on Springer Mountain, Georgia.  I’ve noted and written about my friend Denise’s plan to thru hike this year.  Well, she gets dropped off at the trailhead around noon on March 9.  I’ve made the arrangements to be there like a beacon to cheer her on and hike the first 80 miles of the AT with her. She will nail her hike to the wall.

The weather in Georgia has been all over the map.  Hey, it’s in the south you say; it’s bound to be warm.  Well considering that the entire AT in Georgia is above 4,000 ft., cold weather, sleet and snow are factors throughout March.

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I’m packing now.  My pack is going to weigh much more than normal.  For one, I’m carrying my food in a bear-proof container, not so much for the bears, but to set an example to others who don’t take bears seriously.

As for which sleeping bag, jackets and other clothing, I figured I’d split the difference between zero degrees F and 70F.

Stay tuned for dispatches.