Post Hike

The Book, “Don’s Brother,” Has Been Published

Thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail is hard work. Writing, editing, and publishing a book about thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail is hard work as well. Although certainly of a different nature, this writing project that I have been engaged in for the past six months has at times required almost as much perseverance as the hike did. Obviously the physical component that was needed for the hike did not factor into the latest endeavor; however, patience played a major role in both tasks. So now, some six months after completing my thru-hike and almost a year since I began it, the book is ready for distribution.

While hiking the trail from March 23 to September 2, 2013, I wrote daily about the adventure. One of my goals from the outset was not to miss a day of recording the events that had unfolded. Even though I wasn’t always able to post immediately to trail journals and my website every day, I was only late in posting a few times. Therefore, at the hike’s conclusion I had written 164 entries, one for each day on the trail.

After resting for much of the remainder of September, I began in earnest to edit the journal in early October. Almost three months later that part of the task was complete. In addition to re-writing sections from my journal to include more description, dialogue, and insight into some of the nuances of thru-hiking the A.T., I also interspersed stories about my brother, Don, throughout the book. After all, Don was always the main reason for the hike.

Then after the manuscript was ready, the publishing process began. The folks at Create Space, an independent publishing company associated with, have been extremely helpful in all respects. They have worked with me on interior design, marketing techniques, and are assisting in distribution of the book. A good friend and graphic designer, Jenny Horton, designed the cover.

Don’s Brother: A Hike of Hope on the Appalachian Trail is now available at . The book will also be available at and other outlets within the next few days. I plan to update my website often with additional information. The book contains 342 pages including the Roman numeral pages at the beginning and will sell for $16.95. I plan to donate a portion of the royalties to the ALS Clinic at Emory Hospital in Atlanta in memory of my brother.

I also plan to schedule speaking engagements and book signings whenever opportunities arise. Already I am scheduled to speak at a luncheon at my church, Wynnton United Methodist in Columbus, GA, on Thursday, March 20 and at our Wednesday night supper at the church on March 26. I hope to be able to speak about my hike, my brother, and ALS often. When I speak I will also have books for sale at a reduced price and do signings as well.

This has been quite the adventure. One year ago, I was in the final stages of preparing to embark on a 2,185.9 thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail. In that year I accomplished the task of hiking the trail, wrote a book (for the most part during the hike), and have published it. Now I’m eagerly waiting to see what happens next. Don’t be surprised to hear that I’m back on the trail, if only for a week or two here and there. In the meantime, I would like to again offer a very special thank you to all who followed my journey last year. I wish there were some way that I could meet and thank each one of you in person. Don would have said, “Wouldn’t that be something.”

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Year-end Hike in Georgia

On the last day of the year that I successfully completed a thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail, I went for a hike. On a gray, rather cold morning, my old buddy Alton joined me on an 8.2 mile jaunt along a portion of the Pine Mountain Trail in west central Georgia. Returning to the place where I had walked many a mile in preparation for the AT hike seemed an appropriate way to close out 2013. After all, hiking occupied much of my year. From practice hikes in January and February to the thru-hike from mid-March to early September, I spent much of this past year in the woods. Even though today’s was my first hike since summiting Katahdin, 2013 has been the year of the hike.

So after a hearty breakfast at the Callaway Gardens Country Store, Alton and I walked up the highway to the western terminus of the Pine Mountain Trail. Over the course of the next four hours my good friend and I shared stories of family, friends, and the Appalachian Trail. It was all good. The overcast sky in no way detracted from the camaraderie. We had the trail to ourselves, seeing only a few others on the somewhat bleak day. This wasn’t the AT, but it was a trail, complete with crumpling leaves, roots and an occasional stream to rock-hop across. Once again I felt in my element, even if only for a brief time.

I walked today using only one trekking pole. Alton carried a hiking stick. I wore a small daypack with Gatorade and water inside. Even though I had hiked in shorts almost exclusively on the AT, I wore long hiking pants today. Despite the cold, the day was comfortable. The blazes were mainly blue or red, the climbs were minimal, but it was still a trail through the woods. These were the woods where my brother Don had also walked in what now seems like another lifetime. Don may be gone, but the woods are still here.

As I spoke of the thru-hike with Alton I found myself missing my trail friends. I’ve kept in touch with some; others are merely memories. I don’t even know the “street names,” as Susquehanna Slim calls them, of many. At one point I failed to see a root and fell. I don’t guess a day of hiking would have been complete without a fall. A couple of minutes later I grazed an overhanging limb with my head. Smiling, I thought about the day in Pennsylvania when an unseen, protruding limb had almost knocked me out. Today’s trail was not the AT. Nevertheless, it had its obstacles.

At the end of the hike, after saying so long to Alton, I drove home. There were no trail towns along the way. I thought about the nearly four months that have passed since that last day in Maine. I thought about the book project that is almost complete. I remembered days when I had to watch every step for fear of falling. I planned future hikes, not certain when they will occur. But mostly I just appreciated the year that is coming to a close later today. I reminded myself just how fortunate I was this year. I walked 2185.9 miles, all northward, on the Appalachian Trail. I was never sick, I sustained no significant injuries, and I met so many wonderful people along the way. For those who followed the journey as well as those who hiked along with me, from Don’s Brother, I would like to wish all of you many days filled with wonderment as this year concludes and another arrives. Happy New Year, my friends!

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Editing the Journal

For the past two weeks I have busied myself with editing parts of my journal in expectation of publishing my writings as a book. The endeavor has been a challenging one. When I was hiking the AT, recording a summary of my day on the trail became second nature. Even when I faced exhaustion or when the hour was late, I somehow found the time and energy to write. And all the writing was accomplished on my iPhone. Now, at a computer and in the comfort of my home, there are often distractions, both physical and mental, that are keeping me from the task at hand. Concentration escapes me. I wonder why. As I replay events from the hike I continue to find myself wanting to be back in the woods. This transition back into the “regular world” for a 62 year old retiree has been difficult. I have even wondered if I need a job. I’m always busy and never bored; however, perhaps some routine responsibility would help me take my mind off the trail.

So anyway, I’m editing. I don’t have a publisher and have been told by a couple of reputable authors that I may need to self-publish. Either way, the book will become a reality within the next few months. I’m just as determined to publish a book as I was to finish the thru-hike. In fact, there were many times when the thought of completing the hike in order to publish a book motivated me to keep walking. Don inspired me first. The possibility of sharing his life and my hike with others kept me going as well. For now I’m trying to embrace the idea of finishing a book with the same tenacity as I did finishing a hike. Like the hike, the book is a goal I need to fulfill. The hike took 5 months and 10 days to complete. The book may take longer. Time will tell.

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The Regular World

Three weeks ago, on a wet, cold, potentially hypothermic day, I summited Katahdin.  Almost regretfully, it feels strange to allude to the hike in the past tense.  For so long I thought about how many days had passed from the beginning of the hike.  Now I find myself contemplating the number of days since it ended.  This, the third week since its conclusion, coincides with the six month anniversary of its beginning.  I deemed time irrelevant while following white blazes.  In the present, time again marches on.  Moments exist when I feel as if the hike didn’t actually occur, but instead resides merely in my imagination.  The reality of the regular world has for now replaced the gossamer existence on the trail.

The adjustment back to my “real life” has proven challenging at times.  At others it seems almost as if I had never been away from my home.  When I walked into my church sanctuary the first Sunday after returning home, I felt as if I had attended the previous week.  I sat on the same pew.  The same parishioners surrounded me.   Then when the pastor welcomed me back, for a second I wondered where I had been.   Many wanted to hug my neck or shake my hand.   I smiled, thanking each for his or her prayers while I was away.   When the service ended I attempted to make a quick exit, not really wanting to talk about the hike.  As it simmered in my subconscious I desired to keep it to myself, only reluctantly sharing tidbits with those who asked.  I had openly written about each day while on the trail; now I wanted instead to protect the memories.   Verbalizing my feelings seemed more difficult than typing them.   After all, who would really understand?

I have met with some of my friends.  I shared a lunch with some of my running buddies, answering a variety of AT questions, but more importantly fellowshipping with good friends that I had missed.  I’ve exchanged emails or text messages with Banzai, Molar Man, Pilgrim, Susquehanna Slim, and Steady and Spirit.  I miss my AT pals.  I also miss the trail.  While hiking I just wanted to finish.  Now I find myself contemplating being back in Virginia or Vermont or New Hampshire.  Just like in this paragraph, my mind fluctuates constantly.  I pick up my cell phone to make a call to only find myself scrolling through trail photos.  I wonder how others who shared their hikes with me are adjusting to the “regular world.”  I debate whether or not to make a phone call.  I replay in my mind the good times, the times of excitement and joy.   But just as often, I recall days of duress and fatigue.  Equally, I bask in the memories of both.

I’ve gone to the beach and thought about the mountains while walking barefoot in the sand at dusk.  I viewed the setting sun over the waves and remembered a twilight in Pennsylvania.   I ate seafood on a weathered, wooden deck and recalled a restaurant in Maine.   I strolled down tree-lined streets at sea level with a vision of roots and rocks transfixed on my brain.  I spoke often of the hike.   Linda patiently listened, reminding me that we could go to the mountains in October.  I wondered if a brief visit to the Smokies would satisfy a longing for white blazes. 

Sometimes I think of Ulysses when he returned home to Ithaca.  Tennyson was right.  How does one truly “adjust” after a great adventure?  As my hike neared its end, I kept repeating, “each step I take is a step I’ll never have to take again.”   I suppose the key words there are “have to.”  No, I’m not contemplating another thru hike.  I’m not even planning a return to the trail anytime soon.  I’m not ruling out, however, other hikes on the AT or even other trails.  They just won’t occur in the immediate future.  For now, I’m happy in this “regular life” in the “regular world.”   Still I will daily cherish the many fond memories that have forever become a part of me because I chose to go for a hike on the Appalachian Trail.


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