My Message

Here’s what I said to a woman struggling to lighten her pack. 

“And now, if you’re game for an even deeper exploration, it has helped me immensely to delve into clarifying my purpose for walking. I realized that the trail is a blank canvas on which I paint my own journey, design my own fulfillment. Sure, a popular way to engage with the AT is to backpack long distances. That’s not the only way it can be visited, and, conversely, hiking might not necessarily be the best way to fulfill your dream. It might open up a whole new journey to explore what you’re thinking that hiking the Shenandoah section will provide… ultimately, in my own hiking, I want to create something that makes my heart sing!”

Maps for the Appalachian Trail near Springer Mtn., GA

I received a text message from a friend: “My sister and I want to begin a hike at Springer Mountain in mid-July. Do you have maps we can borrow or recommend the best maps?”

My maps are in storage in Virginia while I work out in California! Besides, once you step on the Appalachian Trail, you’ll fall in love with it and want your own set of maps for fanning the flame of your new passion and recording your memories!  Here are my recommendations

MAPS

Maps are helpful for spatial orientation, road crossings, and for locating nearby towns and highway routes. They can also show topography, shelters, and points of interest along the way.  I also enjoy perusing a good map for bedtime reading! Here are suggestions for maps for the southern section of the Appalachian Trail:

The National Geographic Trails Illustrated Maps are excellent with detail and scope. A new series since I walked the AT has come out: the Appalachian Trail series (#1501-1513). 13 maps cover the entire trail.  Before this series, it took two maps to cover the trail in Georgia.  If you’re planning to walk trails in Georgia in addition to the AT, including the Benton MacKaye Trail, Brasstown Bald, and Bartram Trail, among others, you might prefer #777 and #778.

#1501 covers the southern 200 miles of the Trail.
http://www.natgeomaps.com/appalachian-trail-springer-mountain-to-davenport-gap-georgia-north-carolina-tennessee

#777 covers Springer Mountain part way through Georgia.
http://www.natgeomaps.com/springer-and-cohutta-mountains-chattahoochee-national-forest

#778 covers the north Georgia section
http://www.natgeomaps.com/brasstown-bald-chattooga-river-chattahoochee-and-sumter-national-forests

GUIDEBOOKS

Guidebooks are good companions for maps because they round out the information on the maps  with data points specific to the trail, distances between landmarks, shelters, and water sources. In addition, current guides also include details about trail towns, post offices, shuttle providers, gear vendors, and even trail profile guides.  Currently, there are two popular guides available. Both are updated annually and have dedicated followers who swear to the accuracy and helpfulness of the guide they chose.

The AT Guide  (“The AWOL Guide”)
http://www.theatguide.com/

Thruhikers Companion and other planning guides from the Appalachian Trail Conservancy
http://atctrailstore.org/official-a-t-guide-sets-1/

 

MOBILE PHONE APP

If you prefer a digital guide to the Trail, the Guthook Guide has become quite popular since its first release in 2012.  The app and the demo guide to the Approach Trail are free. In-app purchase of 9 sections gives hikers everything they need to navigate the entire 2,189.2 miles of the Appalachian Trail and 273 miles of Vermont’s Long Trail. Each section costs $8.95, with a bundle price for all the sections.

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.highsierraattitude.atcomplete&hl=en

Almost Silent

September 3,2016

It’s so quiet this morning in this Vermont forest! It’s 7:30 a.m. and I’ve heard just one bird – a bluejay making it’s squeaky one note squawk. And I can’t tell if the almost imperceptable constant chirping sound in the background is insects or tinnitus.

Occasionally, tiny tapping sounds indicate the falling of tree detritus on the tarp or branches further away.

And, there! Distant motor of some kind.

It sure is easy to sleep here, but why is it so quiet?

Ride 

August 27, 2016

“Let’s go to Guido’s at Rt. 7. We could get apples, lots of apples, to bring out.”

At Rt 7, we stuck out our thumbs to hitch. Dozens of cars went by with no ride. “On this road, they probably don’t know about the trail.”

We walked a bit, thumbs out. No ride. “Too discouraging. Let’s see if we can get water at that Garden store over there, then get back out on the trail.” That worked! Cindy welcomed us into the workshop and offered fresh water from the water cooler.

Back outside, we tried hitching again, this time right at the ‘Appalachian Trail’ sign. A handful of cars went by. Just about to turn to the trail, I heard a beep, then looked around to see a car pull over to the right side, then turn around. The driver was turning around to pick us up!

He lived across the road and often took hikers to Great Barrington. Yes, he would take us to Guido’s, no problem. “How are you getting back?” he asked. We had planned to hitch a ride. “That might be hard” he said. “I’ll wait for and bring you back. I can go to town later.”

“Anything you want?” I asked. “Oh no, but maybe prime rib or lobster would be good!” he joked.

We shopped lickety split. Apples. Coffee. The sushi caught my eye, so a got a tray of it. Bread. Bread would be good. John found a nice loaf of banana bread. Done.

One more thing. “Please add $5 to this gift card.”

When our trail angel, whose name I never learned, dropped us off at the trailhead, I handed him the card. “This will get you started with that lobster.”

“You didn’t have to do that! ” he said, seeming surprised. “Well, you didn’t have to drive us to Guido’s either, so we’re even! Thanks for your generosity!”

That sushi was amazing!

Trailhead Sushi!

Chapter’s End

July 6, 2016
Delaware Water Gap! It’s 9:30 a.m. and here we are at the Pennsylvania-New Jersey state line!

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It’s halfway across the bridge across the Delaware River – on I-80! The trucks rumble by, inches away from us  beside the concrete barrier, the bridge shaking. Only on the AT! Oh my!

Our three-hour walk this morning included the last of the Pennsylvania Rocks, a lily-pad pond, and a tunnel of rhododendron flowers! What a fitting flourish for the end of this section of our walk!

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430 trail miles, three complete states (WV, MD, PA), 36 days.

Now, for a month of family visits and preparation for our next section from Delaware Water Gap to Killington, VT and completion of a second traverse of the Appalachian Trail!

Thanks for reading my blog!!!
Stay tuned for the next chapter starting in August.

In joy,
Regina

Calzone Day

July 6, 2016
There are only two people in the world who celebrate Calzone Day! That’s me and my hiking partner, John. The first Calzone Day was July 6, 2007, when John bought a calzone in Monson, Maine, couldn’t eat the whole thing, and shared it with me!

We didn’t know at the time that we would become hiking partners, but now celebrate the day we met!

Today marks nine years since the first Calzone Day!

Stay or Go?

July 1, 2016
We easily walked from last night’s camp to Eckville Shelter, arriving at about 2 p.m. The trail today was scenic with views from Pulpit Rock and The Pinnacle, winding from Blue Mountain to Eckville Rd on a smooth, old dirt road. Not so many rocks at all!

Eckville Shelter is a remodeled garage behind a big farmhouse next to the road to Hawk Mountain Sanctuary, where hawks gather in great numbers during spring and fall migration.

The shelter features a caretaker who lives in the house, a solar shower (cold today!), a charging strip for electronics, and six bunks.

We enjoyed our semi-private visit, with just one other hiker, until others started walking in around 3:30 or so. We started to consider our options.

There really wasn’t much  advantage in staying for the night. Six bunks would mean that many of the dozen hikers would be camping in the grassy lot across the street. There was no laundry, minimal cell signal, no wifi connection, no access to extra food, which meant we would be depleting our trail food without making progress to our next resupply.  In addition, the growing number of hikers meant no privacy either.

This time, the choice to cook our dinner on the huge picnic table complete with conrete slab stove pads, allowing a full three hours of phone charging time before walking out for a couple more hours of walking, was easy!

Our three hours provided rest, a cold shower, dinner, and some good conversations with other hikers. The guest caretaker surprised us with his delight that he could meet the renowned Mssnglnk of Pacific Crest Trail fame.

That was my trail name in 2008 when I walked the PCT, the same year a hiker named Jester walked as well, making a movie of his trek in a group called The Wizards. John and I walked at a pace that loosely coincided with the Wizards. I showed up in the movie a couple of times, and we shared a PCT finish photo with Jester and some of the Wizards. The caretaker is a good friend of Jester’s and loves his movie, The Wizards of the PCT. He’s been trying to meet all of the hikers in the movie, and marveled at his good fortune to meet one right here at Eckville Shelter. “You’re my hero, MssngLnk. You’re one of the great ones.”

Flattery was fun for a few moments, but we still packed up and hiked back out to the trail a little after 5:00, climbing back up the ridge toward the night’s camp further north on the trail, Eckville Shelter behind us.

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Pulpit Rock

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The Pinnacle

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Rhododendron Flower just opening!

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Box Turtle on the trail!

In joy,
Regina

Port Clinton

June 30, 2016
A popular hiker hangout in Port Clinton, PA is Frank’s Barber Shop. The barbers are a father-son team who’ve been running the shop for decades – $8 a cut. They had a steady stream of customers for the 2 hours we stayed while sorting our maildrop and charging phone batteries.

“Would you like to cut my hair?” I asked the younger Frank. He looked at me, “No, not really.” I think he just cuts men’s hair. And they just really enjoy having the hikers visit.  They offer everyone coffee and cookies – vanilla amd chocolate  sandwich cremes – and find out our trailnames and where we’re from.

Another local guy, their friend, offers shuttles to nearby Hamburg where the services are.

We got a ride to Hamburg for shopping at Wal-Mart and Cabella’s (because Wal-Mart was out of fuel canisters!) from a guy named “The Regular” who is updating a 1960 Ford Falcon – red. “I have to drive it around to test it, so I may as well be driving someone, otherwise I’d just be by myself.” I gave him some gas money.

At Wal-Mart, I got impatient waiting for John to get out of the bathrrom, so I ducked into the Vision Center. After Kelli had adjusted my glasses, I said, “You can tell everyone that Regina walked 340 miles to have you adjust her glasses!”

Lori, also at the Vision Center, helped by letting me plug my phone and charger into an outlet near a cupboard where the phone was out of sight. We got to talking about the AT, and she said, “That’s something I’d like to do!” You know me, I got pretty excited about that and invited her to contact me.

And then Cricket, at the entrance, noticed our packs and asked us aquestions about the trail too. It’s fun being celebrities just walking the trail and coming in to resupply!

This time, we decided to “get outta Dodge” and return to the trail without spending the night in Hampton or Port Clinton. Our choices were Microtel, the Port Clinton Hotel, or the town pavilion, a huge picnic shelter open to hikers.

Whewee, sometimes it’s a challenge to leave town! There’s a feeling that there’s something there I need, except I don’t know what. Since we’ll be completing our first section of this year’s walk in just one week, I didn’t really need a night in town. Still, there’s a pull. But, this time we ignored that and walked out of town.

Ahh. As soon as I stepped on the trail and started  walking again, I felt at home!  “I have what I need to be here!”

Well, I did forget to buy garlic, which I love chopping up into my hummus and quinoa. I’ll have to get it next time! And, if I change my mind, there are four towns in the next 70 miles!

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Leaving Port Clinton along the Schuykill River.

In joy,
Regina

Katahdin Anniversary

June 27, 2016
Today is my nine-year anniversay of my first summit of Mt Katahdin, the northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail, in Maine!

What a day that was! I was astounded at the arduous terrain of the mountain, surprised at the boulder climbing and the 10-hour trek to get up – and down!

Now I know that Mt Katahdin is in the top five most difficult parts of the trail, too! But, I’m so glad I did my thruhike  that way because I got the hard stuff out of the  way first!

I’ve gone back to climb it again – eight other times! If you haven’t watched my video of Mt Katahdin, watch it here!

Katahdin Sojourn

In joy,
Regina

501 Shelter

June 28, 2016
“We haven’t stayed at a trail shelter yet on this walk, but this would be a good one,” I said to John, as we heard the approaching thunder. We had been waiting at the fancy-dancy 501 Shelter at the junction of the AT and PA 501 for the last few hours, heeding the thunderstorm watch.

So far, we have bypassed all the shelters since our walk began on June 3rd. Here are my reasons:
   *I’m not a social sleeper!
   *They can be dirty and mouse-ridden!
   *People leave things in them.
   *They remind me of work as a ridgerunner when I cleaned them out.
   *I love sleeping in my own tarp space out in the quiet woods.

There are over 300 shelters on the Appalachian Trail. Each one is unique. Many are simple three-sided wood sided lean-to type structures with a smooth plank floor. Some are stone. A few are elaborate, multi-level buildings, with covered picnic table, loft, and bunk platforms. They have room for 6-8 people layed out in their bags. When there’s a storm, they accommodate any number of hikers! More than I once, I have squeezed in with about twenty others in a trail shelter to wait for a storm to pass.

Shelters are good landmarks. Their location is marked in my guidebook, so when I get to a shelter, I know exactly where I am.

Shelters usually are near a reliable water source. Not always, but usually, so they are good stops for water, lunch, and meeting other hikers.

Shelters are a location for trail registers, notebooks provided by the local trail club, for hikers to make note of their passing through. This year, hikers seem to be writing simple one-line messages, “Trailslug passin’ through” whereas when I hiked in 2007, people would write long passages, notes to upcoming hikers, stories. Perhaps smartphones and blogs are filling the communication gap.

The 501 Shelter is big and fully enclosed, more like a hostel. It has 12 wide bunks and two picnic tables inside. A six-foot wide octagonal skylight lets in a flood of daylight. A solar shower, porta-potty, and adjacent tenting provide luxury. What really sets this shelter apart are a caretaker living in the house next to it, and pizza delivery service from Do’s Pizza in Pine Furnace.

We stayed the night, amazed at how quiet 17 people could be. No one spoke after 8 p.m. and the only lights were red headlamps of late readers. Hikers love their sleep!

The storm was mild, or at least that’s how it seemed from inside the 501 Shelter. We had made a good choice, and can now say we stayed in a shelter on this walk!

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The Octagonal Skylight