Monthly Archives: March 2013

Addis Gap to Dick’s Creek Gap

It proved to be a restless night. I slept intermittently, awaking about every half hour until around 4:00. Then I actually dozed without waking until almost 7:30. When I heard WILSON ( he prefers his trail name be stated emphatically) and Army Ant retrieving our food bags from the trees they had hung them last night, I began packing up inside the tent. My speed has quickly improved, so within half an hour I was packed and ready to hike. I joined the others around the fire ring for breakfast. They all cooked; I had cheese crackers and a few sips of coke I had bought before leaving Helen yesterday. I followed that with a Baby Ruth. The unofficial candy bar of the AT is Snickers; however, I’ve decided to eat the bar which brings back memories of Lou Gehrig’s teammate and baseball. Plus Don’s and my mother always enjoyed a Baby Ruth.

After filling up my water bottle and treating it with Aqua Mira, I began the half mile walk back up to the trail. I bid the others farewell, saying as I always do, ” I hope I’ll see you somewhere up the trail.” The hike began with another substantial climb which took a lot of stamina. I keep saying that I’ve got to so a better job with nutrition. I may need to call one of my good running buddies and ultra marathoner, John Teeples, for some more suggestions. I hike very strongly after a large town breakfast but tend to drag in the morning when starting the day with trail food.

I saw no other hikers until I crested the first mountain. It was there that I met an approaching southbound hiker wearing a University of Alabama baseball cap. Ghost said he had completed the AT in sections in 2002. When I told him I was from Columbus, Ghost stated, “I lived there 38 years.” The son of an elementary school teacher, who taught much of her career at Clubview, Ghost graduated from Jordan High School. It was good to discuss mutual friends right in the middle of the Appalachian Trail.

Later in the morning I once again encountered trail maintainer Rockkicker. He advised me to go ahead and call the Blueberry Patch Hostel from the trail since there is rarely reception from Dick’s Creek Gap. I had previously spoken to Gary, a former thru hiker who, along with his wife, offers bunks for hikers as a Christian ministry on a donations only basis. When I arrived at the gap there were several hikers waiting for shuttles or taking a break before heading back up the trail. Among them were Walmart and Kristen, a young lady from Montana who I hiked with up Blood Mountain. Walmart was dressed in all camo, which Don would have liked. Gary drove up soon after, and Kristen also rode with us to the hostel. After a shower and having my laundry done, Gary drove some others and me into Hiawassee. The others returned with him after a brief time in town. I decided to stay in town for a while.

I made my way to Daniel’s Steakhouse where I decided to partake of he AYCE buffet, a favorite of hikers. I’m still sitting here now trying to catch up on the writing. Layla, my waitress, has been most hospitable, filling my glass with sweet tea numerous times with a smile. She also listened with interest as I told her about Don and the website. I also talked with a local couple at the next table, who expressed an interest in my hike. Kathleen and Sal, I imagine, are representative of the fine people who reside in Hiawassee.

Well, it’s getting a little late by hiker standards, so I best have my desert and head to the grocery store. There are still things that need to be done before I hitch back to the hostel to rejoin the hiking community of the Appalachian Trail.

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Unicoi Gap to Addis Gap

I’m back in the woods tonight. I’m already in my tent at 6:45 and I have no cell service. It’s cold, but not as cold as the past few nights. I have on tights, shorts over them, a short sleeve T-shirt, a long sleeve T-shirt, and a fleece plus two pairs of socks and a stocking cap. I’ve taken my gloves off to type, but they will be back on soon. I’m warm in my 10 degree down bag. I hope I will sleep well tonight.

The day began with a shuttle back to Unicoi Gap with Carol. Red Specs was the only other hiker for the ride up. When we arrived at the parking lot, a tent was set up and the smell of grilled burgers filled the morning air. A group from McConnell Baptist Church provides trail magic as a service to the AT hikers every year. Jeannette Cole listened intently as I explained to her the purpose of my hike. Others were equally compassionate. Having only finished breakfast a short while earlier, I took a burger for he trail. Another nice lady insisted that I take a brownie as well.

The hike out of Unicoi Gap commenced with a climb up Rocky Mountain of about a mile. Once on the ridge, spectacular views abounded on this sunny, yet still cold, day. Occasional snow and ice patches spotted the perimeter of the trail. I started the hike solo; however, about half way up the mountain Red Specs caught me. Hiking much stronger than I remember from our first meeting, he strode along with me for much of the morning.

At the Cheese Factory site(a campsite where a cheese factory had at one time stood), we stopped for a break. As I sat with my back against a tree, eating my trail magic burger, two hikers stopped as they passed. To my surprise, it was Circuit Rider and Sherlock. I had met them on my section hike of the Shenandoah’s in 2006 with Alton. That summer they were helping Queen Diva run the Bear’s Den Hostel. The two have thru hiked multiple times and are out for another walk to Maine. They provide Christian ministry to all hikers who will accept it. Circuit Rider equates himself in a manner to John Wesley and the days of the circuit preachers. Sherlock asked to pray with me. So there in the middle of the Appalachian Trail, my family, my hike, Don’s life , and I were lifted up in prayer. It was a special moment.

Throughout the remainder of the afternoon I continued to be blessed with gorgeous weather and spectacular views, often in more than one direction. I passed a group of three, Tortoise, Longshot, and Gabby, and also came across Rockkicker, a trail maintainer who thru hiked way back in 1984. It was a pleasure to stop for a while and chat as he cleared a patch of icy vines.

As the day passed, I decided to camp for the night and wait until tomorrow to get to Hiawassee. Some other hikers had mentioned Addis Gap as a desirable site. So when I arrived at the forest road which led to the camping area, I headed down the gravelly road despite the half mile walk to the tent site. When I arrived, several other hikers that I had previously met were setting up their tents. The Aussies, Jacko and his son Daniel, or the Invisible Man, were there as were Wilson and Army Ant, whom I had already met. I also was introduced to Mother Teresa and Hiker Boy. Hiker Boy, who is somewhat of a legend on, resides on Long Island. After meeting Jacko on Whiteblaze, he decided to quit his job and drive the two Australians from jFK to Georgia. He ‘s hiking part of the trail with them. After we all had supper, it was good to exchange hiking stories around the hiker TV ( a campfire on the trail).

I turned in first, but after journaling for a while I left my warm sleeping bag to join the others by the fire. Most had already gone to bed by then. It was peaceful listening to the rushing stream cascading over the rocks in the distance. As darkness enveloped the campsite, I watched the dying embers of the fire, while standing next to Mother Teresa.







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Hogpen Gap to Unicoi Gap

It’s 8:00 AM and the sun is shining brightly. It’s still cold outside, but at least it looks like it’s going to be a sunny day. I’m gazing through the sheers from a table in the lobby of the Best Western in Helen, waiting for a shuttle back to the trail. I’ve begun my day with a huge breakfast of eggs, sausage, toast, jam, and coffee. I’m seated near the fireplace. A small fire burns. Now I’m ready to hike.

Carol Powell , the owner of the Best Western in Helen, graciously shuttled 10 hikers back to the trail beginning at 10:00. One other hiker, Cole from Texas, also was returning to the trail at Hogpen Gap, so we were dropped off together. Cole attended three semesters at Texas Tech before deciding to take some time off to hike. When we hit the trail just after 11:00, I quickly pulled away, knowing that I’d see Cole again “somewhere up the trail.”

The trail today consisted of several ridge lines with views to the east and west. I stopped often to take pictures and just enjoy the vistas. Snow and ice remained in some areas while others had converted back to mud. The abundant level sections afforded some faster miles. I’ve come to call this my cruise mode. On the climbs I “work hard” much like I did when hill repeats and track intervals were a part of my preparation for getting ready to run a road race a couple of times a month. On the descents I “go slow” since it’s these sections that present the greatest possibility of falling. Then when I hit those level places, I cruise.

Early in today’s hike I made really good time. I reached Low Gap shelter, at the 4.6 mile mark at 12:45. Even though the path down to the shelter was a quagmire, I wanted to sit at the picnic table and enjoy my lunch. I had decided to “eat fresh” today, having bought a footlong subway melt this morning before leaving Helen. I declined “making it a meal,” so only had water to drink. When I reached the shelter, a hiker I had talked to on the trail yesterday, Mark from Chicago, was there with his Jack Russell terrier, Hero. As we chatted Cole walked up.

Shortly after leaving the shelter I met two older hikers hiking SOBO (southbound). Leap and Faith were getting off the trail because one of them has a knee issue. I don’t remember who was Leap and who was Faith, but it was the lady who was injured. I wished them well after telling them about my website. A little later I came across two section hikers, Kyle and Jake, a dad and son from that town in GA just south of Chattanooga, which right now I can’t remember how to spell. They were getting ready to hike off the AT at the blue blazed Jacks Knob Trail and return home.

Just before reaching the Blue Mountain shelter, I encountered three hikers taking a break. Early yesterday I had passed the trio of Mei Mei, Rosy, and Highlighter, but had not stopped to talk. Today I did. Recognizing that they were tired and cold after spending consecutive nights in the frigid woods, I suggested that they consider a town night. They were mulling over my recommendation as I hiked onward. After separating myself a good distance from the group, I took a brief break to finish off the other half of my subway.

On the downward approach to Unicoi Gap, numerous rocks of varying sizes required a more concentrated descent. Although I slipped a few times, I managed to cover the 14.3 miles today without a fall. Hoping for a hitch at Unicoi Gap, I noticed a white pick-up in the parking lot as the road came within view. Robert, vacationing in Helen with his 12 year old daughter Victoria, was more than happy to offer a ride. He smiled when I told him he was now an official Appalachian Trail Angel. Robert calls Cape Coral, FL home, but says he loves the mountains. It was a real pleasure riding back into Helen with the two.

After showering I walked down the road to have supper at Wendy’s. Just as I was entering, I spotted Mei Mei, Rosy, and Highlighter in line. They had taken my suggestion. They said yes with smiles when I asked if we could dine together. They seemed much happier than they had been a few hours earlier, clean and enjoying town food, ready again to continue their quest of thru hiking the AT. I felt their enthusiasm.

Today’s hike rewarded me with many special moments. Of them all, however, I think the most special was getting to see Hero again. Don loved dogs. Even though he and Lisa had not owned a dog recently, two neighborhood dogs had taken up dual residency at their home. Don fed, bathed, and provided a comfortable pillow to relax on for Buster and Chautsey. Don would have really loved Hero. As I hike each day, I continue to be reminded of my brother’s kindness. He was a compassionate man in many respects. I could imagine him bending down to pet Hero before walking on up the trail through a place he always felt at home, the woods.










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Neel Gap to Hogpen Gap

At first daylight I peered out the window on a bleak, cold, windy day. Walmart had been shuffling around downstairs in the dark for some time, trying to get his pack ready. He needed an early departure in order to try and catch a group he had previously been hiking with. When I heard him whispering with Overalls, I told them to turn on some lights since I was already awake. A short while later I wished Walmart well as he stepped out into the frigid day, telling him I hoped I’d see him again somewhere up the trail.

Boomerang awoke, gathered her gear, and left next. Then Overalls went to meet the group he had been hiking with to determine their plans for the day. At this point I still had about an hour before I needed to start today’s hike since I had arranged for Doug of Alpine Taxi to pick me up at Hogpen Gap at 1:00 for a shuttle into Helen. So with the time I had left, I laid my still wet tent out in the sauna like bathroom to see if I could get it dry. Much to my amazement, it was almost completely dry within an hour.

After packing up myself, I walked up to Walasi-Yi to get some milk before hitting the trail. The outfitters buzzed with at least a score of thru hikers. Some mingled around within the building while others milled around outside in the flurries. Daypack, from my first night on the trail, was there as was Jacko who has come over to hike the trail from Australia. He recognized me from trailjournals and offered to share some doughnuts while we chatted. I only ate two of the crispy creams as somewhat of a dessert to the leftover pizza I had finished a few minutes earlier. I drank half of the pint of milk before securing the remainder of the bottle in my jacket pocket for “on up the trail.” In this cold weather milk will stay fresh all day.

When I discovered it was almost 10:00, I quickly said goodby to George, thanking her for her help. George and her dog Gracie thru hiked the trail a few years back. She, along with all of those who work at Mountain Crossings, offer an invaluable service to the hikers. I think most, like myself, are grateful.

As I walked through the arch of Walasi-Yi toward the woods, a blustery wind hit my face. I put the hood of my fleece securely over my head and part of my face before starting the climb upwards. I quickly passed three very slowly moving hikers who appeared to be carrying very heavy packs. The frozen snow over the mud actually made for good traction early in the day.

Over the 6.9 miles from Neel Gap to Hogpen Gap, I passed several hikers. Red Specs is from a small town in Germany. He’s 58 and this is his first trip to the US. He seemed like an interesting guy., but my pace was much faster, so we only hiked together for less than a quarter mile. Others I met on today’s hike were Dundee from Oregon, two young men without trail names from Virginia, and Mark from Chicago, who had also lost his brother last year. He is doing a section hike with his dog Hero, to determine if she is trail worthy. By the way she scampered down the frozen rock faces, I’d say she is.

A little after 11:00 I reached the top of Cowrock Mountain. I finally was treated to some beautiful views. A local group was relaxing on the rocks when I arrived. Bob informed me that they were a part of and that they hiked up to Cowrock from Hogpen Gap every Tuesday. I took a pic with Bob, who is from Taccoa, and asked him to check out my website.

The day continued cold and windy. According to Dundee’s thermometer it was 23 as we headed down Cowrock. The ice on the rocks made for difficult hiking much of the day. Going up Wildcat Mountain I passed Boomerang. We chatted briefly and then I headed on past her. A few minutes later, mainly due to lack of concentration, I slipped on an icy rock and fell. I quickly recovered, however, but decided to wait there to warn Boomerang who was just a little behind me. She handled the area well and hiked on with me until we reached the blue blazed trail down to Whitley Gap Shelter, where she planned to stay the night.

The climb over the mountain just before Hogpen Gap was tough; however, I managed to arrive just before Doug drove up in his SUV. He said that yesterday he had driven hikers non-stop, who needed to get off of the mountain and into the towns due to the dangerously low temps. There are other hikers here tonight, and Carol, the owner, is going to shuttle 5 of us back to the trail in the morning. I’ll hike 14.3 to Unicoi Gap and them come back here for another night.

One of the nicest aspects about hiking the Appalachian Trail centers around the fellow sojourners you meet along the way. Overalls, who hails from Tulsa, Oklahoma, spent some time working on an oil rig. He came to the trail for his own reasons, determined to reach Katahdin. The time it takes to get there is irrelevant for Overalls, just as it is for many hikers. After beginning his trek lugging a 70 pound pack, he recently decided to lighten his load. One of the items Overalls sent home was his fishing pole. That would definitely have made Don laugh. I think my brother would have really liked Overalls. Like Overalls, Don loved to fish. And also like Overalls, Don loved the woods.



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Woody Gap to Neel Gap

This morning at 7:30 Josh and Leigh served a breakfast of pancakes, eggs, oatmeal, and grits before shuttling all the hikers back to the trail. I sat by Alex, the young man from England, and enjoyed watching him try grits for the first time. After finishing off a bowl, he declared that he liked them. Also at the table were the group of 4 from Maine, a mom and her two young adult daughters from Ohio, a older fellow from South Africa, and a young lady from Nova Scotia. Everyone else was starting their hikes today, so I don’t how many I’ll see again.

Fortunately I was the first in the van to be dropped off. When I began my hike at Woody Gap at about 9:00 the temperature hovered around 28 with flurries just beginning. I hiked in snow and wind all day. Walking through a dusting of snow made for an enjoyable day. I’ll take snow over mud any day. Eventually the ground froze as the snow increased. I saw no other hikers for the first few miles, so I just enjoyed the peacefulness.

Climbing Big Cedar Mountain at the beginning of today’s hike posed somewhat of a challenge, but since it was early in the day and I had had a hearty breakfast, I made it to the summit without too much difficulty. Just before Lance Creek I stopped for a break to have a snack and take some pics. Shortly thereafter I saw my first hikers of the day, four southbound section hikers. Later I also met Pilot, a section hiker from the Boston area. We chatted briefly before I headed on up the icy trail.

By the time I started the accent of Blood Mountain, the wind was howling and the trail had become an icy path. About half way up I caught up with Kristen, who is going to Davenport Gap. We hiked together over the icy rocks to the summit and Blood Mountain shelter, a stone shelter that is off limits to overnight stays due to bear activity. Matt and his buddy were holed up without water and carrying less than appropriate gear. I was a little concerned for the two. I felt better when a family out for a day hike from Neel Gap arrived with extra water and food.

After a short break and adding a layer of clothing (my Adidas hydro dri fleece), I started the hike down Blood, arguably the toughest mile on the Georgia AT. The icy rock faces required a slow, meticulous decent. Still I made good time and managed to compete another day on the trail without a fall.

So on day three I got to walk into Walasi-Yi at Mountain Crossings and see George, Pirate, and many of the other former thru hikers who work there. George took my pic for their Facebook page and arranged for sleeping accommodations. Since all the bunks were taken at the hostel, I’m sharing a cabin with three young folks, Wal-Mart from Columbus, Ohio, Boomerang from Rochester, NY, and Overalls from Oklahoma. Nick, the last to arrive, is hiking in overalls, so when he told me he didn’t have a trail name, I dubbed him Overalls. He liked it. Overalls is also hiking with a loaf of bread hanging off his pack.

Today was another good day on the trail. For much of the day I was given the privilege of experiencing the beauty of my snowy surroundings immersed in solitude. I felt my brother Don’s presence with me in the powdery woods. It was peaceful and serene. Don would have enjoyed today as much as I did because as we all know by now, Don loved the woods.



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Hawk Mountain to Woody Gap

It was a dark and stormy night. As we negotiated the forest roads in our search for the start of the AT yesterday, I kidded with Linda, Lisa, and Scotty that at some time during the hike I wanted to begin a post with Snoopy’s opening sentence for his novel. I just didn’t know it would come so soon.

Folks, it deluged last night. As my granddaddy Harry Andrews would have said, “it came a gullywasher.” The thunderstorms commenced around midnight and didn’t subside until dawn. They were relentless. Lightning lit up the sky like a bomb exploding. I envisioned that line of dark red on the weather radar. Needless to say, I slept little.

At first light I began to pack up. Water had crept beneath my tent despite my meticulous placement of the tent at what I had thought was the ideal camping spot. So after packing a damp sleeping bag, wet clothes, and a partially soaked sleeping pad, I ate breakfast and then took down my drenched tent. Therefore, until the sun comes out, I’ll be carrying an unusable wet tent.

The hike today was a lot more strenuous than yesterday. Due to the rain, there was a considerable amount of standing water on the trail. The streams were rushing as well which meant that crossings were also a bit challenging. At one point there was no other choice but to step directly in the water. I thought about changing socks but decided to forgo the stop. In addition, mud was everywhere. I slipped several times; however, so far I have been able to follow my good running buddy John Cobis’ advice, “stay vertical.” Tomorrow going down Blood Mountain will be the biggest challenge thus far.

Along the way today I hiked briefly with two fire fighters from Winston Salem and also stopped to chat with a south bound section hiker Pilot, who is from the Boston area. I stopped briefly to eat and rest at Gooch Mountain shelter where I shared some info with a young couple from Indiana. After a tiring final 5.3 miles I arrived at Woody Gap in a dense fog. I was able to hitch a ride to the Hiker Hostel with Kayleen and her husband (whose name I can’t remember). They were dropping off another hiker and gladly offered me the ride here. My first trail angel.

Josh and Leigh, the owners of the hostel, thru hiked in 2000. They are really great folks, answering questions and providing advice when asked. Josh took me in to Dahlonega to get a meal at Captain D’s. After returning to the hostel I was able to talk to some of the hikers here about Don. All listened with compassion. Among those are Kathy Sanders, who is on trailjournals, Cliffdiver, Ratchet, Lance, Alex from England, and four hikers from Maine. It has been great exchanging stories with all.

Tomorrow morning, after a hearty breakfast at the hostel, I’ll head back to the trail to resume my hike at Woody Gap, with Neel Gap and Mountain Crossings as my destination. Like I will sign every register, Don loved the woods.
Until tomorrow….



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First Day on the Trail

All in all, it was a very good first day on the trail. The journey began with a drive up a series of mountain roads with the destination of Big Stamp Gap, one mile north of Springer Mountain. Unfortunately, however, after Scotty made a wrong turn somewhere along the way, we wound up at Nimblewell Gap, at the 6 mile mark of the approach trail. So rather than a 9.1 mile day, I hiked 10.9. Officially though, I’m at the 8.1 mile mark on the AT.

As a result of my good buddy’s navigational error, I might be the only thru hiker ever to begin a hike at Nimblewell Gap. It proved prophetic in a way because I met former thru hiker Hopeful on the way up to Springer. He had hiked in 2003 and again in 2011. I had read his journal, so it was a real treat to be able to meet and chat with him. I also appreciated the advice he offered.

Overall, the terrain of the hike today was fairly easy, at least by AT standards. I thought of Don often. I also met several other hikers along the trail including a family of four from Asheville, two section hikers from St. Augustine, and a few thru hikers. Lucky is a young fellow from Ireland who is traveling with a hiker from the Netherlands that he met at the Hiker Hostel. Daypack, who also thrued last year, is here tonight as well. All together there are around 25 hikers at the campsite.

I’m tenting next to a couple of retired army officers who have kept me laughing the entire time I have been writing this with a variety of stories from their pasts and some interesting planing strategies for the next few days. Dave and Phil seem like some genuinely nice guys who served their country in Vietnam. They plan to hike about 700 miles, so hopefully our paths will cross again over the next few weeks.

Well, the campfire is blazing, so now I have to decide whether to remain in my cozy sleeping bag and listen to some music or join the younger hikers by the fire. Since it sounds like light rain is beginning to fall on my tent, I suppose I’ll stay put. Before closing for the night I want to thank my beautiful, supportive wife Linda and my wonderful sister-in-law Lisa for sending me off in style. I’m truly blessed with a loving family. Only one day has passed, but if today is any indication of what is to come, it’s going to be a wonderful adventure on the Appalachian Trail.

Don loved the woods.20130323-203229.jpg



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Signing in

Well I suppose it’s time to let the adventure begin. A good former teaching buddy, Scotty Brooks, took a day off from his position as media specialist at Phenix City Intermediate School to drive Linda and me up to North Georgia today. Lisa drove herself up and met us in Dahlonega, where we’re staying the night. After a trip to Amicolola Falls State Park, where I signed in as official AT thru hiker number 590, we spent the duration of the afternoon walking around the tourist town, winding up at the Back Porch Oyster House for an evening meal.

On the square several vendors were setting up tents in preparation for an Appalachian Trail Fest, which begins tomorrow. I received a favorable weather forecast from a young man who was preparing an exhibit. After I informed the fellow that I was beginning a thru hike tomorrow, he stated that he had begun his thru hike four years ago on March 25. I felt that meeting Catfish, an AT 2000 miler, just might be a good omen. He wished me well as I walked on to catch up with Linda and Scotty who had headed into a chocolate shop.

Overall, the day has gone well. I’m packed, well rested, well fed, and quiet frankly, ready to begin walking north. Several times throughout the afternoon I thought that I’d really rather have gone ahead and started today. I need to be patient, however. There will be plenty of time for hiking over the next few weeks. Tonight it was important to enjoy special time with family and a good friend.

I thought about Don many times today. Brent called to wish me well. He loved his dad dearly, just as Don loved him. Many people sent text messages; others commented on Facebook; some called. I appreciated all those who reached out to offer support and prayers. I will need them every day as I make my way north.

So it’s late and I need to sleep. Morning awaits as do the 2185 miles of the Appalachian Trail.


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Golf with Sam


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Final Week Countdown

EPSON MFP imageMuch has happened over the past three weeks as I continue to prepare for my upcoming thru hike of the Appalachian Trail. With only one week remaining before I depart from Springer, I find myself constantly going over a mental list of what still needs to be done on the home front. My gear is ready, I think I’m prepared physically, and I’ve begun to say goodbye to those who I’ll miss while away. Now I just have to wait for seven more days.

Two weeks ago, my son Sam was home for the weekend, and we were able to get in 9 holes of golf on a very cold Saturday morning. In fact, we even had a brief snow flurry during the round. My good running buddy, Kevin, joined us on the Oxbow Creek course. As usual I finished third in the threesome. It’s always good to spend time with my son and a great friend.

Last weekend my wife Linda and I visited our daughter Rachel in NYC. Even though it was a brief trip this time, we did manage to get in some fine dining and a broadway show. I thought often of the similar trip we had taken with Don and Lisa two years ago just before Don’s diagnosis. Those memories brought smiles to all of us.

Earlier this week I was given the opportunity to speak at a luncheon at my church regarding my hike. The “Prime Timers” mainly consists of the older members of our congregation, many of whom are in a Sunday School class I teach on a rotating basis once a month. I’ll miss those folks while I’m away; however, I will be blessed many times by their prayers. The luncheon also gave me the opportunity to provide a birthday cake for my mom. She will be 88 next Thursday, two days before I begin walking northward. Despite her concern for the health and safety of her lone surviving child, I think deep down she is very proud of what I am trying to accomplish.

Today we celebrated a second time at lunch with Lisa, Brent, and Lori, (Don’s wife, son, and daughter-in-law). Lisa’s sister Val and her husband Freddy also joined us. Much of the talk around the table centered around my hike. Brent and Lori plan to meet me somewhere along the way, and Lisa promises a celebration in Maine if I make it. Certainly provides me with more incentive.

So, it’s been a great last three weeks as I get ready for that final seven day countdown. I’m still reading daily others’ trail journals and can’t wait to be out there hiking with them. I greatly appreciate all who have found and read my journal, and I thank sincerely those who have signed my guest book or sent me an email. Over the next few months I hope I’ll be able to provide all with an insightful as well as entertaining portrayal of trail life while I pursue an adventure on the Appalachian Trail. And each day that I walk I’ll often remember that Don loved the woods.

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