Thursday, August 06, 2009

Stratten, Maine

August 6, 2009
The 2009 AT trek is coming to an end as I have only 10 more hiking days to go until I summit Katahdin on Aug. 15. Dad is going to summit with me, and he is going to have a pretty hard introduction to the trail as Mt. Katahdin is a five-mile, 4,000 ft. climb. Once I reach the infamous sign atop the mountain, I must still turn around and walk the tough five miles down.
I'll be returning to Atlanta on Aug. 16 and departing for Saint Louis on Aug. 19. It's not much time to turn around and move, but it's all I have prior to my Aug. 20 teaching assistant meeting on campus. With flights set, an end time established and an itinerary to follow, there isn't much left to do except hike. I have about 175 miles left to go, with 110 miles being in the last six days. I'm hiking as part of a four person crew, including Highlander, the Kid and Loudspeaker. It may be a busy summit day as at least a half dozen other hikers have expressed an intent to finish the same day. Highlander is bringing speakers for his MP3 players, so it may turn into a party.
Further, I'll leave my SPOT satellite tracker in the tracking mode on Aug. 15, Saturday, as I climb up Katahdin so you can follow me up. The tracker sends a position point every 10 minutes or so, which you can check on Google maps via the link on the right side of this blog that says, "Where am I?" I'll be updating photos and my blog in the days following the trip so you can see my summit day.
Sincerely, Steamboat...

Posted by Mike McCollum at 11:38 AM

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Andover, Maine

July 30, 2009

Hey Everyone,
I'm blogging from a hostel in Andover, ME after exiting the White Mountains earlier this week. The trip is quickly coming to a close, but there are plenty of tough miles ahead. In less than three weeks I'll be done and in a month I'll be sitting in a classroom in Saint Louis thinking this is was all a dream. Whether it was a good dream or bad one is yet to be determined. It's only something I can determine with time.
I won't be transcribing my journal to the Internet for the rest of the trip due to time restraints. I'm too far behind to get caught up. I'll continue to drop small notes to the blog and video messages as I move North. Anyway, wish me well as I continue my trek through Maine. To see where I am, click on the "Where am I?" link on the upper-right side of the page.
~ Steamboat.

Posted by Mike McCollum at 8:21 PM

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Days 100 to 113, Greenwood Lake, NY to October Mtn Lean-to (Mass.)

July 11, Saturday
It has been about three weeks since I last updated the blog. I apologize about the delay. I'm sure you were wondering what your brave adventurer was doing out in the woods. Well, it was a lot of walking in the rain and mud, unsurprisingly. Anyway, time is quickly running out on my hike as school approaches. I continue to shoot for an Aug. 16 summit day, but there are a lot of intangibles to cling you to the edge of your seat wondering if I'll actually finish. Also, I don't have enough time tonight to fully update the blog. I've brought you up to July 5, Day 113. I'll update the rest next week from Hanover, NH. Sincerely, Steamboat...

Day 100, June 22, Monday
Start: Greenwood Lake, NY
End: Greenwood Lake, NY
Mileage: Zero Day, 819.1 miles to Katahdin; 1,359.2 miles from Springer

~No Journaling

Day 101, June 23, Tuesday
Start: Greenwood Lake, NY
End: Greenwood Lake, NY

Mileage: Zero Day, 819.1 miles to Katahdin; 1,359.2 miles from Springer

~No Journaling

Day 102, June 24, Wednesday
Start: Greenwood Lake, NY
End: Wildcat Shelter

Mileage: 4.8 miles, 814.3 miles to Katahdin; 1,364 miles from Springer

I end today with cautious optimism that I can manage my hamstring after 4.8 miles, not including a very tough 0.9 mile blue blaze out of Greenwood Lake.
I could use a good icing, but my only treatment available is compression and Advil with a good deal of stretching. There remains a good deal of discoloration behind my knee with soreness under the butt cheek and to the upper left side of my left leg. Tomorrow morning will be very telling as to how I will proceed.
The trail ahead looks bumpy, but if clear, I may be able to see the NYC skyline. My hope is that after one week of solid 12 to 15 mile days, I may be able to increase my mileage.
The mosquitoes are horrendous. I have no doubt my face and neck will be their supper tonight. The incessant buzz is maddening. Sometimes, not often, I long for the cold days of March where no bugs were to be found.

Day 103, June 25, Thursday
Start: Wildcat Shelter
End: Fingerboard Shelter
Mileage: 14.3 miles, 800 miles to Katahdin; 1,378.3 miles from Springer


~No Journaling

Day 104, June 26, Friday
Start: Fingerboard Shelter
End: Ft. Montgomery, NY (Holiday Inn)

Mileage: 14.2 miles, 785.8 miles to Katahdin; 1,392.5 miles from Springer

~No Journaling

Day 105, June 27, Saturday
Start: Ft. Montgomery, NY
End: Dennytown Rd Campsite
Mileage: 14.5 miles, 771. 3 miles to Katahdin; 1,407 miles from Springer

I've not journaled four of the past five days and I'm sure I'll regret my laziness later when looking back at my journal, but my low morale has kept me from enjoying much.
Every hiker goes through periods of the blues. I have had many days on the trail where I wish I could just pack it up adn go home, but by the time one gets to a good spot to leave the trail, those feelings are usually gone, so you press on. Impulsiveness has no place on the AT. The past four days I've definitely had feelings about going home. I had lost my momentum after returning from my triple zero. My legs hurt, and I was demoralized from my looming time crunch. The rain makes you want to jump off a cliff. I felt better today and I hope I've regained some of my hiker swagger and momentum. I aim for 19.7 miles tomorrow to test the leg. I remain three days behind schedule, which must be made up somewhere. Presumably, I can try to shave a day or two in Conn/Mass. Most importantly, I plan for the future and want to move forward.

Day 106, June 28, Friday
Start: Dennytown Rd Campsite
End: Morgan Stewart Shelter
Mileage: 19.7 miles, 751.6 miles to Katahdin; 1,426.7 miles from Springer

I hiked for the second consecutive day with Black Kat and Lost Acadia, two Canadians who offer great conversation to pass the time. Last night we tented in a beautiful clearing that had a picnic table, a port-a-potty, and treated water. Half way through the night, after a trash can was knocked over, Black Kat yells for me to scan the woods with my head lamp. I spot two eyes reflected in my light. Obviously a raccoon. Lost Acadia is convinced it's a bobcat. It was a comedy of errors as we searched for the intruder to our camp.
Today's hike included some annoying ups/downs, but the weather was dry and mild, great for hiking. I managed a good 19.7 miles and I feel good. I could have gone five more. I was aided by pizza and a two-litre of Pepsi purchased at mile 16. The two hour feast with Black Kat and Lost Acadia made me feel part of the trail again. I hope I've found my momentum.
A new strategy for me includes tenting every night, including at shelters. The privacy is nice, but it keeps the bugs away. Prior to NY, I may have tented only a handful of times. Always by necessity. I find it suites me well.

Day 107, June 29, Monday
Start: Morgan Stewart Shelter
End: Ten Mile River Lean-To
Mileage: 20.7 miles, 731.1 miles to Katahdin; 1,447.2 miles from Springer

I hiked for the third day in a row with Black Kat and Lost Acadia, who I think really saved me from a dark spot on the trail. I was not enjoying myself very much since I returned from my hamstring injury. I had lost my hiking companions of three weeks, Bojangles and Phoenix, and I was feeling very low on energy and motivation. I was contemplating going home.
The 20-mile day today did a lot to convince me I can regain my sense of movement. It's just nice to have others around, even if it includes talk about hockey. They may move ahead of me tomorrow, but I won't be seeing the last of them. It would be great to summit with them.
I entered Connecticut today and I was glad to see the end to the poorly marked, irrationally routed adn hopelessly rocky trails of NY. I'm officially in New England, the farthest north I've ever been. I'm a few miles from the 2/3 point, so a lot of miles remain. August will be upon me before I know it.

Day 108, June 30, Tuesday
Start: Ten Mile River Lean-to
End: Campsite
Mileage: 16.3 miles, 714.8 miles to Katahdin; 1,463.5 miles from Springer

~No Journaling

Day 109, July 1, Wednesday
Start: Campsite
End: Mountainside Cabins
Mileage: 15.7 miles, 699.1 miles to Katahdin; 1,479.2 miles from Springer

~No Journaling

Day 110, July 2, Thursday
Start: Mountainside Cabins
End: Salisbury, Conn.

Mileage: 9.4 miles, 689.7 miles to Katahdin; 1,488.6 miles from Springer

~No Journaling

Day 111, July 3, Friday
Start: Salisbury, Conn.
End: US 7, Sheffield, Mass.

Mileage: 22.1 miles, 667.6 miles to Katahdin; 1,510.7 miles from Springer

I've neglected journaling again for the past three days. I've been pretty tired as I move through Conn. The terrain has steepened, but luckily the trails are smooth, although with continuous rain, the walking is a muddy mess.
I seem to have latched onto the Canadians and I hope I'm not wearing out my welcome. I don't anticipate hiking all the way to Katahdin with them, but I enjoy their company. I think they enjoy mine.
We slack packed today from US 7 in Mass. South back to Salisbury, Conn. with the help of Venessa, who's house we are staying in tonight. I've effectively knocked another state off my list, but the trail looks tougher ahead. There won't be any easy days to Maine. I must be fullycommitted to solid miles to ensure I finish.
With more rain today, I have endured more than 30 straight days with some sort of precipitation. The trails are a mess. We walked shin deep through water today. I suppose this trip isn't supposed to be easy.

Day 112, July 4, Saturday
Start: US 7, Sheffield, Mass
End: Shaker Campsite

Mileage: 17.6 miles, 650 miles to Katahdin; 1,528.3 miles from Springer

Next summer, as I presumably sit lakeside drinking cold beer, I'll still look back on today as the best Fourth of July of my life. I've renewed my love for the Appalachian Trail the past few days in Mass. When not a muddy mess, the trail is beautiful in New England with many views, even trail absent of rocks, and tall, stately pines that sweeten the smell of the woods.
Despite the improved conditions, and a full day of dry weather, the Shaker Campsite tonight is hell. It's mosquito city. I ate dinner with my rain jacket on and then jumped in my tent to safety. I'm sharing a tent pad with the Canadians. Black Kat had a great surprise tonight. He packed out a Bud to share to celebrate the Fourth.
650 miles left! That's six weeks or so. I feel good and I'm feeling confident I can finish by Aug 15. Acadia mentioned a possible Aug. 10 finish. All I know is that I'll blink and I'll be sitting in a classroom thinking this trip was a dream, often a nightmare.

Day 113 July 5, Sunday
Start: Shaker Campsite
End: October Mtn. Lean-to

Mileage: 18.7 miles, 631.3 miles to Katahdin; 1,547 miles from Springer

~No Journaling

Posted by Mike McCollum at 8:13 PM

Monday, June 22, 2009

Days 84 to 99, Duncannon, PA to Greenwood Lake, NY

June 22, Monday
I'm blogging from a coffee shop in the village of Greenwood Lakes, NY, as I attempt to rehab a pretty sore hamstring that may take me off the trail. I'll explain the situation further in my June 21 post, but needless to say, I'm worried about my future on the trail. I do feel better after yesterday's zero, and I'm hoping that today's additional day off will only improve my situation. I can possibly take tomorrow off as well, but any further time would seriously hinder my ability to finish prior to August 15. Wish me well and I hope to be back on the trail soon. --Steamboat

Day 84, June 6, Saturday
Start: Duncannon, PA
End: Duncannon, PA
Mileage: Zero Day, 1,041 miles to Katahdin; 1,137.3 miles from Springer

~No Journaling

Day 85, June 7, Sunday
Start: Duncannon, PA
End: Peters Mtn. Shelter
Mileage: 11.3 miles, 1,029.7 miles to Katahdin; 1,148.6 miles from Springer


I zeroed in Duncannon, Pa., Saturday, although I hardly deserved it. Saturday was my fourth zero in nearly two week. It's as if I'm trying to make my August a sprint to the finish line. My real desire was to rest up for a good three week push. As of now, I won't be finishing before Aug. 18. School begins Aug. 20, so I have about 8 days to shave off. My stay at the Doyle Hotel in Duncannon was good for the moral. A hiker friendly bar and restaurant is on the first floor of the century-old hotel. Derelict is an accurate word to describe it. Legend has it that a guy died in a room a few years ago and wasn't discovered for three days. Without hikers, there would be no business model. The joke is that the trail runs through the bar.
The dreaded Pennsylvania rocks have not appeared, but I remain ready for the worst. I hope to leave this state by Monday. I hear good things about New Jersey, surprisingly.
There isn't much to say about Duncannon. Most of the houses wear aluminum siding, and a few are gutted by fire. It felt like a Bruce Springsteen song with blue collar miners saddled up to the Doyle's bar.

Day 86, June 8, Monday
Start: Peters Mountain Shelter
End: Campsite
Mileage: 18 miles, 1,011.7 miles to Katahdin; 1,166.6 miles from Springer


Solid, but unspectacular day, which was mostly spent ridge walking a flat, mildly rocky trail with two sharp climbs. I walked on and off today with Chris. His pace is slightly faster than me, but he takes more breaks, so our days often cross paths. We are camping at the ruins of a mining village with Phoenix and Javelin. The shelter that we all planned to stay at was infested with a half dozen children, so we rightly moved on. Chris and Phoenix have been near constant companions for almost two weeks and its nice to enter camp to see familiar faces.
The humidity and bugs were brutal today, which made the moderate terrain more challenging than it needed to be. There are flies everywhere, along with knats and mosquitoes, which hover like a cloud whenever I stop. It definitely cuts down on lunchtime loitering.
My cell phone coverage is again spotty. I really wanted to talk to Jen tonight. I miss her more than ever after spending a week on and off the trail with her.
Also, I've thought a lot about my Steamboat friends lately and how my departure has left a bad taste in my mouth. I wish I had said goodbye to a few good people. I just had so many mixed emotions the week I left.

Day 87, June 9, Tuesday
Start: Campsite
End: 501 Shelter
Mileage: 16.9 miles, 994.8 miles to Katahdin; 1,183.5 miles from Springer


At around 4 am I awoke to a loud crack and a steady drumming of rain on my tent. Within minutes, the rain grew to a downpour and lightning flashed through my eyelids every thirty seconds or so. After about 30 minutes, the storm had zeroed in on our campsite and the time between flashes and cracks of thunder was instantaneous. My initial reaction was awe at the power of the storm. I then became annoyed that my tent would be wet the following day. When a strike was so close I felt the Earth shake, I became a little alarmed my metal frame tent could be the next target, or a falling tree limb would flatten both me and my living quarters. The rain abated before I finally got out of my tent at 8 am. Although the ground was a bit sloppy and humid, the rain has held off today.
Tonight would have been a great night to have a lightning storm, for the shelter has a huge skylight. This isn't so much a shelter, but a four-sided former art studio with bunk beds. Also, pizza and sodas were ordered for dinner. Tomorrow a big day into Port Clinton, PA.

Day 88, June 10, Wednesday
Start: 501 shelter
End: Port Clinton, PA, Port Clinton Hotel

Mileage: 23.7 miles, 971 miles to Katahdin; 1,207.2 miles from Springer

~No Journaling

Day 89, June 11, Thursday
Start: Port Clinton, PA
End: Echville Shelter
Mileage: 15.2 miles, 955.9 miles to Katahdin; 1,222.4 miles from Springer


I have not mentioned in a few weeks any ailments, which is a far cry from the daily misery chronicled in my first 60 days on the trail. That streak is coming to an end as the infamous Pennsylvania rocks have officially taken their toll on me and I feel utterly broken down. It's just simple aches and pains in the knee and ankle joints, along with very tender foot pads. So far, the rocks have not been massive boulders, but rather small, sharp protuberances from the ground that poke through the soles a hundred times per mile. Another joy are the larger, rounder rocks that roll under each step. It's like walking on hard grapefruits. This sensation jostles the joints, which inflames the tendons and ligaments that are constantly being stretched.
A bit of good news is that I bought a new backpack today, and Osprey that is one-third the weight of my Gregory, which was on its last leg. The new pack eased some back pain I've been having.
I am looking forward to leaving Pennsylvania very much, despite the fun trail towns, milestones, and ice cream challenges. Jersey/NY are approaching.

Day 90, June 12, Friday
Start: Eckville Shelter
End: Bake Oven Shelter
Mileage: 17.4 miles, 938.5 miles to Katahdin; 1,239.8 miles from Springer


Today was a tough 17.4 miles over rocks of all shapes and sizes. As I mentioned yesterday, the rocks protrude from the ground as scales on a dinosaur and poke into the foot muscles from all sides. A new rock was confronted today--the suitcase to car-sized ones that required bouldering, often hand over hand, for long distances. The most difficult, and painful climb, was over the "Knife's Edge." As the name implies, the rock jutted up in spiky peaks, with a spine that looked like a long blade of a knife. The trail traversed this spine. I was thankful the wet weather had burned off, or else I'd still be out in the boulder field clutching a twisted ankle, or worse. Not to be dramatic, but it was the toughest 17 miles I've faced on the trail.
I share the shelter with Bojangles, as Phoenix and Javelin tent nearby. The shelter is an original AT shelter from the 1930s and it has seen some wear. Further, their is an apparent resident copperhead snake. Tomorrow I'm off on a short 7-mile day into Palmerton, PA to rest my rock beaten body.

Day 91, June 13, Saturday
Start: Bake Oven Shelter
End: Palmerton, PA
Mileage: 7.7 miles, 930.8 miles to Katahdin; 1,247.5 miles from Springer


~ No Journaling

Day 92, June 14, Sunday
Start: Palmerton, PA
End: Leroy A Smith Shelter
Mileage: 15.9 miles, 914.9 miles to Katahdin, 1,263.4 miles from Springer

I spent last night in the basement of the Palmerton, PA municipal building, which is provided to thru-hikers at no cost. I shared the basement with Phoenix, Bojangles and an off putting hiker named Marks. Javelin moved on past Palmerton and didn't stay. Phoenix remained inPalmerton for a medical check and I hope he catches up soon. The word is that Steam and the Darkness are only one day behind. For them to catch up, my pace must be very slow. I need to get my averages back up to the high teens before the terrain prohibits such big days.
I have 20 very rocky and difficult miles into Delaware Water Gap tomorrow, followed by about 40 miles of rocks in New Jersey. They are the bane of my existence.
Today included a 1,200 ft climb out of Palmerton at Little Gap that required climbing hand over hand over large boulders. In some ways it was fun to have a challenge, but it was more wear on the joints. It was followed by 12 miles of sharp rocks through the woods.

Day 93, June 15, Monday
Start: Leroy A Smith Shelter
End: Delaware Water Gap
Mileage: 20.2 miles, 894.7 miles to Katahdin, 1,283.6 miles from Springer

I leave Pennsylvania tomorrow and enter New Jersey, but I suspect I won'[t be seeing the end to these damn rocks. My feet are a total mess, but I'm still contemplating a 25-mile day tomorrow. I want to shave a few days off my itinerary in NJ/NY. I'm beginning to worry about finishing the trip prior to Aug. 12. it is a risk I may run out of time. I'm sure it will be a sprint to the end, which does add a bit of excitement.
The past week or so I have thought a lot about Maine. Surprisingly, that is a recent development. I looked at the Maine section in my Appalachian Trail Companion Book, which is my Bible on the trail, for the first time last week.
I can finally envision summiting Katahdin. I still have about 900 miles, but with 1,280 miles behind me, I feel such a sense of accomplishment that can only be topped with seeing Maine below me from the top of Katahdin. Despite some sore knees, my mental state is very strong. Goodbye Pennsylvania. I'll be in New England in a week.

Day 94, June 16, Tuesday
Start: Delaware Water Gap
End: YMCA Camp
Mileage: 17.7 miles, 877 miles to Katahdin, 1,301.3 miles from Springer

I'm spending the night at an old YMCA camp that is now being used to train student trail maintainers. It's derelict, nearly abandoned, and very creepy. Set aside for thru-hikers are two huts next to the lake. The huts are totally rodent infested, but if it rains I'll be dry.
After dinner we were visited by three of the camp's residents who informed us the YMCA closed the camp and sold it to Park Service decades ago because a Boy Scout project severely polluted the lake, rendering anyone who dares to enter it to break out in a poison-ivy like rash. The scouts reportedly added about 30x the proper amount of algae killer, which killed everything living, except the lake's resident beaver. This is the perfect setting for a horror movie. I was also told that the Friday the 13th movie was shot nearby.
The hike in Jersey is beautiful with great views off the ridge into the valley. The rocks are still present, but manageable. Further, I was treated to a glacial lake bordered by thousands of mountain laurels. The lake is the first glacial lake south on the trail.

Day 95, June 17, Wednesday
Start: YMCA Camp
End: Mashipacong Shelter
Mileage: 19.4 miles, 857.6 miles to Katahdin; 1,320.7 miles from Springer

~No Journaling

Day 96, June 18, Thursday
Start: Mashipacong Shelter
End: Unionville, NY
Mileage: 14.3 miles, 843.3 miles to Katahdin; 1,335 miles from Springer


~No Journaling

Day 97, June 19, Friday
Start: Unionville, NY
End: Vernon, NJ
Mileage: 11.8 miles, 831.5 miles to Katahdin; 1,346.8 miles from Springer


~No Journaling

Day 98, June 20, Saturday
Start: Vernon, NJ
End: Greenwood Lake, NY
Mileage: 12.3 miles, 819.1 miles to Katahdin; 1,369.2 miles from Springer


~No Journaling

Day 99, June 21, Saturday
Start: Greenwood Lake, NY
End: Greenwood Lake, NY
Mileage: Zero Day, 819.1 miles to Katahdin; 1,369.2 miles from Springer


I've gone four days without journaling and I have much on my mind. My body has broken down again in the form of a hamstring injury. I'm not certain of the severity of the injury, but I worry it may end my trip. With few days remaining to finish prior to my Aug. 15 deadline, I don't have a week to rest. I think I can spare two to three days, but any longer would make continuing on to finish futile. What pains me the most is that I have never been more mentally focused on the trail. I dream of summiting Katahdin every night. Needless to say, the next two days will be excruciating to sit and hip I heal enough to proceed.
The pain starts from under the bottom curve of my left butt cheek down to the back of my knee. There is a tightness to my hip and groin area, while touching the hamstring is painful, but not painful enough to wince. There is swelling, most notably behind the knee, but no discoloration to indicate blood from a muscle tear. It hurts most to push up on the leg, which is most disheartening since that's what I do all day hiking up mountains. If it was an injury only occurring on flat walking, I'd be set.
Last night I slept in Greenwood Lake, NY., after two nights in Unionville, NY, at the Mayor's house or, "The Outhouse." I can't do justice to those two days in words. Simply put, they were two of my favorite days of the trip. The events go as follows...

I arrived in Unionville late in the afternoon on Thursday in a steady rain. From word of mouth on the trail I was aware the former town Mayor would take in hikers, but I didn't know which house was his. My only clue was that he drove a silver Prius. After lapping the town, I decided to ask for help. At the General Store I approached the clerk, and in a hushed tone similar to ones used in handshake drug deals, I said, "Do you know where I can find the mayor?" My secretive nature, strange as it may sound, was due to the fact that the house was in deed a secret. The clerk not only gave me directions, but ultimately called my Mayor's house to pick both me and Bojangles up. Within minutes I was piling my gear into the truck of a man named Butch who shuttled us the half-mile to Dick's house, the former mayor.
As I entered the house I extended my hand to the guy who looked to be in charge. It was Dick. "Hi, I'm Steamboat," I said.
"Who the fuck cares," he replied as he shook my hand with a smile and urged both me and Bojangles to come in.
I had a hint of the eccentricities to come when Butch informed us of the house rules during or ride up to the house.

Rule 1: First beer is free. Each one after that is 25 cents each with a max of four beers per day.
Rule 2: No words are to be spoken longer than three syllables or a 25 cent fine per word.
Rule 3: Don't do your own dishes
Rule 4: If you say sir, Butch will punch the nearest thru-hiker.

After my stark introduction, I saw Phoenix at the kitchen table, who had been at the house for two hours, wearing an expression like, "You have no idea what you have gotten yourself into." Well, I didn't.
I stored my bag in the basement where 10 bunks had been constructed and stuffed my shoes with newspaper to dry them out. Bojangles won a rock/paper/scissors dual, so he got the shower first. My prize was the first beer.
Dinner was some really good pizza, with salad, followed by Dick's explanation of why he sees caring for hikers is his mission. For years he had seen hikers at the Post Office and the General Store looking decrepit. The smell is often worse. His wife, who passed away almost two years ago after battling MS for 15 years said the hikers were not unlike anyone else who may be stranded alone without a shower.
"What if our car broke down and no one stopped to help us?" she said. "We'd smell like them too after a few days...wouldn't it be nice if someone could help them."
Dick paused a moment to reflect on his wife's words and charitable nature.
"Wouldn't it be nice," he repeated. "It just sounds so god...when she passed I made it my mission to do just what she said."
With no advertising, no mention in the prominent trail guides, and relying on word of mouth only, Dick has attracted over 1,100 hikers in less than two years. He feeds each one dinner and breakfast, gives them a bunk, provides laundry and a shower, and encouragement. All of this is by donation only.
After a 6:30 am breakfast wake up on Friday, Bojangles and I decided to slackpack from Vernon, NJ 12 miles North back South to Unionvillefor another night at the Mayor's house.
With an early start and low mileage, we finished early Friday afternoon and spent the better part of four hours at the General Store eating subs, ice cream and snacks with Phoenix, who had zeroed.
That night we watched two videos with Dick that is considered mandatory viewing. They were about following one's dreams. Prior to dinner he spoke of the story of Cain and Abel that best expressed his mission toward us lowly hikers.
"Are we our brother's keeper?" he asked us. "Yes, and not just four our immediate family, but with everyone in the world. I know it's corny, but it's true. We are all brothers. You are my brothers and you are now part of my family. Butch, Bill and I will do everything in our power to help you."
His charity extended to Bill, who Dick met at a nursing home while the mayor was doing community service. Shortly, the men became friends and Bill moved in with Dick to help care for the hikers. The old folks home didn't suit Bill, who is 80.
"If it wasn't for you, I'd be dead," he said on our last night. "I was just sitting around that place waiting to die...I think you are a bunch of fucking idiots for walking that trail, but I'm here to help you."

Posted by Mike McCollum at 8:51 AM

Reactions: 

No comments: Links to this post  

Email ThisBlogThis!Share to TwitterShare to FacebookShare to Pinterest

Labels: AT trekMayorNew JerseyNew YorkPennsylvania

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Days 72 to 83, Gainesville, Va. to Duncannon, Pa.

June 6, Saturday
I'm blogging from the Doyle Hotel bar in Duncannon, Pa. I arrived in town yesterday afternoon, and after deciding wasn't quite ready to embark on the rockiest 100 miles of the AT, I decided to zero today. I zeroed just about a week ago, consequently, I won't be taking another day off for three weeks, so I better make the most of today. This section of blog includes some pretty good milestones, such as entering Harper's Ferry with Jen, reaching the half-way point, completing the half-gallon challenge and completing a personal best 26.5-mile day. Not too bad for a week of work. I'm now closer to Maine than I am to Georgia, which is amazing to me. Even if I don't finish the AT, no one can take away from the experiences I've already encountered. So, it's time to pound out this blog, grab a beer and relax on the Susquehana river. Cheers and let's all raise a glass to an excellent summer. Oh, and go Braves! ~ Steamboat

Day 72, May 25, Monday
Start: Gainesville, Va.
End: Rod Hollow Shelter
Mileage: 6.2 miles, 983.2 miles from Springer

The rain has returned today as Jen and I hiked 6.2 miles from Sky Meadows State Park. It was a pretty difficult additional 1.7 miles from the visitors center up to the trail, so our daily total is nearly 7.9 miles.
Jen's first day included brutal humidity, shelter spiders that are quite hairy, and a snake encounter at the privy. Also, it has been raining for four hours now and we were forced to shelter, rather than tent tonight. I'm not sure if the accommodations suit her.
This weekend I was treated to the excellent hospitality of the Wingers, who made sure I was well fed and and stocked with beer. In fact. Jen's dad, Jeff, picked me up from the trailhead with beers on ice! Perfect welcoming present.
Memorial Day weekend was mostly spent in the basement preparing Jen's gear, in the backyard playing badminton, or drinking beers on the deck. Jen and I put up a poor badminton showing to her cousin Colleen. It's good to have talk and experiences beyond the trail. It has been a long time coming.

Day 73, May 26, Tuesday
Start: Rod Hollow Shelter
End: Bears Den Hostel
Mileage: 9.9 miles, 993.1 miles from Springer

Short, but difficult day today as Jen and I slipped and slided over rocks in heavy rain through the first two-thirds of the "Roller Coaster," which is a 13-mile stretch of of trail with 13 peaks to climb. The most harrowing point was shimmying across a long five-foot log over a fast moving stream. The water was too swift to wade across. We finished the day at Bears Den Hostel, where a shower, laundry, pint of ice cream, pizza and bunk were included for $25. Also, the caretaker's two-year-old daughter, Hikelette was the entertainment for the night.

Day 74, May 27, Wednesday
Start: Bears Den Hostel
End: Blackburn Trail Center
Mileage:7.96.2 miles, 1001 miles from Springer

Happy 1,001 miles on the trail! This milestone would be sweeter if I was half way to Katahdin, but I'm still about 70 miles away from that point. Tomorrow I'll make it into Harper's Ferry, WV, the emotional half way point, but it will be much nicer to know I'm leaving Virginia, where I've hiked since March 30.
I spend this special night at the Blackburn Trail Center where I enjoyed a home cooked pasta dinner from the caretaker, Brian. The center is an 1800s homestead with 180 acres and an old log house. There is also a hiker hostel, but Jen and I set up my tent on the screened-in front porch. Brian also treated us with brownies, sodas and beer. All of this was free of charge because the center is run by the PotomacAppalachian Trail Club who use the center for their own use and to give back to hikers.
The rain held off today, thankfully, but the mist was dampening. The two or three views were obscured by the clouds during our short 7.9 mile day. Jen says her knee hurts, so I hope she'll be OK into Harper's Ferry. 1,000 miles. I can't seem to believe I've come this far.

Day 75, May 28, Thursday
Start: Blackburn Trail Center
End: Harper's Ferry, WV
Mileage: 12.4 miles, 1,013.4 miles from Springer

~No Journaling

Day 76, May 29, Friday
Start: Harper's Ferry, WV
End: Harper's Ferry, WV
Mileage: Zero Day, 1,013.4 miles from Springer

~No Journaling

Day 77, May 30, Saturday
Start: Harper's Ferry, WV
End: Washington Monument State Park, Maryland
Mileage: 19.1 miles, 1,032.5 miles from Springer

~No Journaling

Day 78, May 31, Sunday
Start: Washington Monument State Park, Maryland
End: Smithsburg, Maryland
Mileage: 11.9 miles, 1,044.4 miles from Springer

I have not blown out of the gate in Maryland despite slack packing yesterday and easy terrain today. It's nice not to be rushing from dawn todusk as I was in the Shenandoahs. I only managed about 12 miles today, and despite this, I still stopped at the Free State Hostel, which is amazing. Squeaky clean with an awesome selection of sodas. Also, I am now caught up with watching The Office.
Jen did awesome hiking with me for her first 34 miles, but the last six miles into Harpers Ferry were pretty tough on her. Jen's gymnastic days were not kind to her body, and the trail has a way of bringing out every ache and pain, no matter how long it has been dormant. SO, instead of pushing on into Maryland, we zeroed in Harper's on Friday. She visited the ATC headquarters where my picture was taken for the records of 2009 thru-hikers. I was NOBO 137. Harvey was like 16! I moved on Slack packing Saturday as her mom drove to Harpers, and then to Washington Monument State Park to pick me up and take me back to their home in Northern VA. With the hostel tonight, I have not been in a shelter since Monday. I probably shouldn't get too comfortable.

Day 79, June 1, Monday
Start: Smithsburg, MD
End: Tumbling Run Shelters
Mileage: 18.3 miles, 1,062.7 miles from Springer

After my sixth straight night in either a hostel, B&B or Jen's home, I'm finally back to the shelters. this particular shelter site is interesting because there are two twin, four-person shelters only 30 feet apart. One is labeled "snoring," which I have all to myself, while the "non snoring" shelter is occupied by Phoenix.
Today's hike was rocky at times and pretty unnoteworthy. I'm getting back into the grind and my 18.3 miles is sufficient. I may try 25 miles tomorrow. I mostly thought of school today and classes I would like to teach, such as an American Exploration Literature class. It would start with Lewis & Clark and conclude with Bill Bryson's "A Walk in the Woods."
I'm not sure how long I plan to hike through Pennsylvania, which I entered mid-day today. I haven't been looking very far down the road the past week, focusing instead on the next few days ahead. I aim to be in Duncannon, PA Thursday night, but if it's Friday, then no worries. Idon't' want to burn myself out meeting tough two week challenges. The only challenge that remains is Katahdin, which i prudently move toward.

Day 80, June 2, Tuesday
Start: Tumbling Run Shelter
End: Birch Run Shelter
Mileage: 19.6 miles, 1,082.3 miles from Springer

~No Journaling

Day 81, June 3, Wednesday
Start: Birch Run Shelter
End: James Fry Shelter
Mileage: 17.1 miles, 1,099.4 miles from Springer1,078.9 miles from Katahdin

From here on to the end of my journey I will countdown the miles to Mt. Katahdin in Maine, rather than miles from Springer Mtn. in Georgia because I am officially past half way. I'm rather shocked I made it this far as I have battled emotional and physical lows during my 80 days on the trail. To finish with time to move to St. Louis I need a sub 75-day second half.
I've already hiked through six states, with Pennsylvania being my seventh. I've placed about 2.5 million steps, very few of them pain free. Further, I've gained a sense of order to my priorities that may not have occurred without this time to really think about what is important to me. As Woody Guthrie wrote, "I've loved so many people everywhere I went. Some too much and others not enough."
It's not surprising that I think of those I miss while I'm out here, mostly alone, but the extent I miss them was unthinkable before I left. this hike remains a daily, almost hourly struggle, one I may not see to its end, but I keep moving. It's not always fun. In fact, it's often miserable, but the trek continues.
In addition to making the halfway point today, I completed the half-gallon challenge. I ate a half gallon of Moose Tracks ice cream in a paltry 1.5 hrs. Subsequently, I will never eat Moose Tracks again. Ever.

Day 82, June 4, Thursday
Start: James Fry Shelter
End: Darlington Shelter
Mileage: 26.5 miles, 1,052 miles from Katahdin, 1,125.9 miles from Springer

I have a new personal record today as I hiked 26.5 miles, including a two-hour lunch in Boiling Springs, PA. The terrain was mostly flat after an initial, gradual downhill. The last two miles were a pretty tough incline to keep the day honest, for most of the hiking was through privately owned farmland. The family farms spanned the whole of the Cumberland Valley. Climbing up the last ridge there was a rare overlook where I could see across the 15-mile wide valley I had passed through today. It was a rare instance of gaining perspective of where I was moving compared to where I started. It made the day special compared to where I started. I didn't feel as if I was walking in a bubble or snow globe with no impact on space or time. Some days it's as if I'm on a treadmill with a moving background. I rarely even know my place in a state. I was shocked to discover today that I'm half-way through Penn.
Further, I met new hikers today as I prepare to enter Duncannon tomorrow. Lulu and Bojangles join the group that includes Phoenix, brothers Younger and Older, along with their dog Rouge, and Tank.

Day 83, June 5, Friday
Start: Darlington Shelter
End: Duncannon, PA, Doyle Hotel
Mileage: 11.5 miles, 1,041 miles from Katahdin, 1,137.3 miles from Springer

~ No Journaling

Day 84, June 6, Friday
Start: Duncannon, PA, Doyle Hotel
End: Duncannon, PA, Doyle Hotel
Mileage: 11.5 miles, 1,041 miles from Katahdin, 1,137.3 miles from Springer


SONG OF THE DAY...

Muswell Hillbilly

By The Kinks

 


 

Well I said goodbye to rosie rooke this morning,
I'm gonna miss her bloodshot alcoholic eyes,
She wore her sunday hat so she'd impress me,
I'm gonna carry her memory 'til the day I die.

They'll move me up to muswell hill tomorrow,
Photographs and souvenirs are all I've got,
They're gonna try and make me change my way of living,
But they'll never make me something that I'm not.

Cos I'm a muswell hillbilly boy,
But my heart lies in old west virginia,
Never seen new orleans, oklahoma, tennessee,
Still I dream of the black hills that I ain't never seen.

They're putting us in little boxes,
No character just uniformity,
They're trying to build a computerised community,
But they'll never make a zombie out of me.

They'll try and make me study elocution,
Because they say my accent isn't right,
They can clear the slums as part of their solution,
But they're never gonna kill my cockney pride.

Cos I'm a muswell hillbilly boy,
But my heart lies in old west virginia,
Though my hills are not green,
I have seen them in my dreams,
Take me back to those black hills,
That I have never seen.

Posted by Mike McCollum at 10:32 AM

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Days 57 to 71, Daleville, Va. to Gainesville, Va.

Monday, May 25, 2009

I can't express this sentiment too much -- It's good to be off the trail. I've pushed 259 miles in 13 days, averaging a clip more than 20 miles per day. My shins held up over the long haul, but the soles of my feet, along with my leg muscles are aching and yelling for some time off, so I've relented and I'm spending a double zero weekend off the trail at my girlfriend's parent's house in Gainesville, Va., which is about 30 minutes from where I left the trail at Sky Meadows State Park. Jen will be joining me on the trail next week for a slower roll into Pennsylvania, where I'll hit the official half-way point. As for today, we are grilling out and getting her gear/supplies in order. My first-month friends are well ahead of me at this point. Harvey is in New York, along with the Brits, Whiz Kid and Spirit Fingers. I make a point to read their shelter register entries, but I'm reading their thoughts and observations from a month prior. After four weeks back on the trail, I'm just now reading their entries from late April, the same week I returned. There is a month of experiences they've had that I've yet to come across. I hope never to see that one has dropped from the trip. As for me, I'm not sure if I'll finish because my school commitments this fall may force me to quit by August 10. I may be within 100 miles from Katahdin at that drop dead date. ~ Steamboat.


Day 57, May 10, Sunday
Start: Daleville, VA
End: Bobblets Gap Shelter
Mileage: 18.5 miles, 737.1 miles from Springer Mountain


Another beautiful hike today as Virginia is quickly becoming my favorite section of the trail. The hike out of Daleville, VA was a very easy grade despite climbing 1,300 ft up to the scandalously named Fullhardt Knob Shelter for lunch.
My legs felt fresh and powerful after the zero day in Daleville. My endurance continues to bottom out after about 18 miles. I need to quickly acclimate myself to 20 mile days. I'm pushing for 23.6 miles tomorrow, but I may stop short at 18.3. I must summit at 4,200 ft. tomorrow, which is the highest point from now until New Hampshire. It may take everything out of me.
A milestone of sorts occurred today as I crossed the Blue Ridge Parkway for the first time. The AT runs parallel to the BRP for more than 100 miles and crosses the road dozens of times. I found the experience strange today to stumble into a parking lot full of Winnebegos and doughy tourists. They seemed as shocked to see me.
I share the shelter with plunger and Mr. Right, a young couple from San Francisco. I hope my snoring doesn't keep them up.


Day 58, May 11, Monday Start:
Bobblets Gap Shelter
End: Cornelius Creek Shelter
Mileage: 18.3 miles, 755.4 miles from Springer Mountain


I set out late this morning due to a light, cold rain. I didn't much enjoy the rapping of water against the roof of the shelter so early in the morning, so I pulled my sleeping bag over my head and slept until 9:30 am. The late start ruined my plan for 23.6 miles today, but I managed a nice 18.3 mile day that was quite enjoyable after the rain let up at 11 am.
I managed a three-mile pace for long bursts today. I enjoyed three long breaks to slow down the day. I usually aim for 2 mph, so the quick pace surprised me. I blistered the last five miles in under two hours, which was made all the impressive considering it included 2,200 ft of vertical climb up Floyd Mountain. I would have continued on past Cornelius Creek if it were not for the failing light.
I again share the shelter with Plunger and Mr. Right, but we haven't conversed much. The past two days I have felt the most alone so far, but that suits me fine for now. 36.5 miles in two days is a good pace. If I keep it up I may get to Jen on time.

Day 59, May 12, Tuesday
Start: Cornelius Creek Shelter
End: Johns Hollow Shelter

Mileage: 21.6 miles, 777 miles from Springer Mountain

My three-day push has netted me 58.5 miles, which pushes me closer to Jen and closer to my original itinerary. I'm only 12 days behind schedule despite my 3.5 weeks off the trail. My fast start with Harvey afforded me a bit of a cushion. If I stay at this pace I should shave even more days, which is essential because 12 days takes me to Aug. 18. School commitments start Aug. 20, so that's not enough time to return from Maine, move to St. Louis, and find and apartment. August 10 must be my drop dead date. If I'm not close to finishing, then I must save the rest for next summer. I'll be severely disappointed to be a section hiker, rather than a thru-hiker.
Today's hike was moderate with good weather. I again felt strong, but my endurance needs to increase to really hit some big days. I'm aiming for my first back-to-back 20-miler since the 50 mile challenge into Damascus, VA, which is where my shin splint exploded.

Day 60, May 13, Wednesday
Start: Johns Hollow Shelter
End: Buena Vista, VA
Mileage: 20.1 miles, 797.1 miles from Springer Mountain


After 60 days on the trail I've had more ups and downs than PUDS. From blisters to IT band pulls, along with sub zero nights, a girardia scare, overused knees and four blackened toes, I've been beaten and battered by the trail. Let's not forget my shin splint. So, as I rest in the dingiest of motel rooms, reflecting on my two months of placing one foot in front of the other, I can honestly say I've never been more committed, and excited, about the Appalachian Trail.
I've hiked 78.6 miles the past four days virtually pain free. I no longer feel like I'm on a death march or I'm running running the gauntlet. It sounds simple, but hiking without pain is actually pleasurable.
I saw my first bear cub this morning. A small, black cub ran across the trail about 30 yards in front of me and climbed half way up a tree before looking down at me. Where was the mother bear? I didn't want to come between the two, but I slowly passed the tree with a shot of adrenaline and carried on 20.1 miles in less than 8 hours. I had a good step in my pace today.

Day 61, May 14, Thursday
Start: Buena Vista, VA
End: The Priest Shelter
Mileage: 21.1 miles, 818 miles from Springer Mountain


The shelter shudders in the dark as a heavy thunderstorm batters me and my bunkmates. I narrowly beat the rain into camp as I raced through a 21.1 mile day, which was my third 20-miler in a row. This is despite not getting on the trail until 10:30 this morning because I needed a hitch out of Buena Vista.
I'm making great progress through central Virginia this past week. I've hiked 100.6 miles in five days since Daleville. I'm now 35 miles fromWaynesboro, but with the oddly spaced shelters I'm only going 13 or so miles tomorrow. I'll go further and tent if the weather permits, but I've come to expect very wet weather in Virginia.
The hike today began with a tough 2,000 ft climb off of US 60 to Cold Mountain. Once through this climb it was a lot of PUDS. I'm catching many hikers, and putting their faces to their trail register entries is always interesting. Among those met today include, Spaceship, Javelin, Kiwi, L-Train, and Ketchup.

Day 62, May 15, Friday
Start: The Priest Shelter
End: Campsite
Mileage: 20.3 miles, 838.3 miles from Springer Mountain


~No Journaling

Day 63, May 17, Saturday
Start: Campsite
End: Waynesboro, VA

Mileage: 13.7 miles, 852.5 miles from Springer Mountain

~No Journaling

Day 64, May 17, Sunday
Start: Waynesboro, VA
End: Blackrock Hut

Mileage: 19.9 miles, 872.4 miles from Springer Mountain

Shenandoah National Park

I didn't journal the past two nights so I have a couple of anecdotes to relay. On my way toward Waynesboro I met a Ridgerunner named Mike. A Ridgerunner is an Appalachian Trail Conservancy volunteer who helps maintain trail. After talking a few minutes he goes, "Cooter? From Colorado?" He apparently put two & two together about my blog, which a coworker was following. "Cooter" is a Colorado nickname I had that I used as a profile name on the Appalachian Trail site Whiteblaze.net. His friend followed my journey, so I want to say hi. I'm sorry I forgot your name though. John W? From Yorktown?
Also, the town of Waynesboro has a list of trail angels who provide shelters to and from town. I called Margarite because she was far down the list and the named seemed fun. What I received was a very friendly, almost exuberant, grandmotherly tour guide. I also wish to thank her.
I enter the Shenandoahs today with a slight malaise after my big push last week. I feel bored. I hope to push a personal record this week to get the juices flowing again.

Day 65, May 18, Monday
Start: Blackrock Hut
End: High Top Hut
Mileage: 21.4 miles, 893.8 miles from Springer Mtn.


Another lethargic day today despite the 21.4 miles. I didn't hit the trail until 10:15 am because I was pretty cold after overnight lows in the 30s. My bag is rated only to 40 degrees. My lethargy may be due to some trail burnout. I'm into my fourth week back and I'm still in Virginia despite my quickening pace. I've hiked about 180 miles in nine days and the monotony may be getting to me. It will be nice to slow down with Jen.The excitement for today was animal, not view related. I saw a dozen deer, some of which were as docile as the ferrel ponies in the GraysonHighlands. They were close enough to pet and had no fear of me. They must know there are no firearms allowed in the Shenandoahs. I also saw a half dozen rabbits, also not afraid of me, and a falcon that flew no more than 30 feet over my head.I've built a good fire and I hope it warms me enough for the night. I don't want another cold night like last night. Also, I saw two deer running together. It made me a bit sad because I've no one to hang with on the trail.

Day 66, May 19, Tuesday
Start: High Top Hut
End: Big Meadows Campground
Mileage: 21.4 miles, 914.2 miles from Springer Mtn.


I managed a 9 am departure, but whatever headway that may seem to ensure was erased with my high number of breaks. It was a beautiful day, albeit another chilly night, but I just haven't fallen into the groove I was in rocking out 20 milers last week over harder terrain. I'm only three days from seeing Jen, but my legs just won't seem to get me there at a quick pace. For the third day in a row it was a mad three-hour dash to finish the day before dusk because I slacked during the day. I'm looking forward to zeroing at the Wingers immensely.
Despite my shuffling, I had three notable wildlife encounters today. First, I saw a bear cub, the second of the trip, at the aptly namedBearfence Mtn. Hut. Second, I was followed by a deer. As I was hiking up trail, an adolescent deer was 30 yards behind me following the trail, and me, for 200 yards. It was an area strewn with boulders and I think we were both on the only route to get by. Lastly, a wild turkey entered the AT, much like at a highway on ramp, and waddled up the AT, with me in tow, for 100 yards before fleeing into the woods. There was no sense of fear on there part in any of these encounters.

Day 67, May 20, Wednesday
Start: Big Meadows Campground
End: Pass Mtn. Hut
Mileage: 18.8 miles, 933.0 miles to Springer Mtn.


I enjoyed a relaxing one-hour nap today at the Pinnacle Picnic Area after lunch in the warm sun with only seven or so miles left in the day. Of course I let time slip away, and along with an unfortunate series of phone calls home about a mail drop, I left myself little time again to make it to camp before sunset. It's the theme of the week. My procrastination did enable me to cross paths with a nice couple at the picnic area who provided me some fresh fruit and dehydrated dinners. I have a lot of goodwill to pay forward when I return home.
The trail today was very well graded, but with a fair number of rocky areas. The 80 miles I've covered in the Shenandoahs have been surprising similar. The vegatation seems to vary in areas due to human activity, but I can easily predict what's coming up for miles down the road.
I was provided dozens of views today. Almost all were facing West. The urbanization of Northern Virginia is so close to the SNP. It's like it just ends and then there is suburbs. A literal line of development you can see from 3,000 ft up. The park will never push back and reclaim any of this land. At one point the park was itself developed and resourced.

Day 68, May 21, Thursday
Start: Pass Mtn. Hut
End: Tom Floyd Wayside
Mileage: 23.6 miles, 956.6 miles from Springer


I left the Shenandoahs today and I'm alone at the Tom Floyd Wayside shelter. It's my first time alone in a shelter and it's only fitting that it would happen as I near the end of a 14-day stretch that has been hiked in relative isolation. I've enjoyed many conversations with some fellow hikers and tourists, but I've been pounding my feet to the ground alone, which isn't always bad, but I haven't enjoyed an overlook with company in a couple weeks. Hiking with Jen next week will cure that, but it's only a one week reprieve.
My wildlife experiences today included seeing my first adult bear of the trip. It was perched on a rock wall about 75 yards away from me along Skyline Drive. It nimbly jumped off the two-feet-high retaining wall and rambled into the woods. As I lay here in the shelter I'm convinced his friends are nearby.
I visited my first wayside grill today and treated myself to a bacon cheeseburger, onion rings, and a blackberry milkshake. It was delicious, but I later felt it on the 1,000 ft. climb up Hogback Mtn.

Day 69, May 22, Friday
Start: Tom Floyd Wayside
End: Sky Meadows State Park
Mileage: 23.4 miles, 977 miles from Springer Mtn.


~ No Journaling

Day 70, May 23, Saturday
Start: Gainesville, VA
End: Gainesville, VA
Mileage: ZERO DAY, 893.8 miles from Springer Mtn.


~ No Journaling

Day 71, May 24, Sunday
Start: Gainesville, VA
End: Gainesville, VA
Mileage: Zero Day, 893.8 miles from Springer Mtn.


~ No Journaling

Posted by Mike McCollum at 8:27 AM

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Days 42 to 44

Saturday, May 2, 2009
I'm blogging from the public library in Pearisburg, Va. Time is again running short at the library, so I'm not going to be able to get fully caught up on the blog. I'll burn through what I can and update more next week. If there are typos it's due to little time to edit. The shins are feeling better, but a little achy, and my first full week back on the trail went well, despite some wet weather. Wish me well! ~ Steamboat

Day 42, April 25, Saturday

Start: Dickey Gap
End: Partnership Shelter
Mileage: 14.5 miles, 526.7 miles from Springer

I'm back on the trial after more than three weeks resting my shins and expanding my gut and ass at home. My shin feels solid. There is a very slight ache that may be attributed to muscle soreness, not an injury. I won't know until I continue to test it.
The hike today was often pretty, but more often boring. I was disappointed to find the woods had not bloomed as they had in Atlanta. The woods have a slight light green, and small wild flowers are blooming along the trail, but it looks like a few weeks away from a full, vibrant forest. Although the buds have not unfolded, sounds spring from the woods in stereo.
Two things stood out most today. First, I stumbled upon the infamous school bus that is parked in a meadow. The inside was gutted of seats and replaced with a bed, stove and table. It was reminiscent of the bus from "Into the Wild." I'm not sure how long it has been since someone inhabited the bus. I entered the meadow and stopped in my tracks when I saw it. A bus so far off the road is an odd spot, and the bus is featured in the AT documentary, "Trek."
The second moment to remember was hiking along an exposed ridgeline in a lightning storm. It was the first time I had adrenaline run through my veins on this trip. Further, the scramble was accompanied by Wilco on the Ipod. It was most ominous when Jeff Tweedy sings, "Maybe all I need is a shot in the arm." There would be worse bands to listen to while being hit by lightning. I returned to the trail by a car ride by Kat. Molly also joined us. I had to pull her chain a bit to come, but I think she was glad she did after leaving sodas and candy at Dicky Gap. The hikers I met today all seemed to be super psyched about her trail magic. One hiker said he saw Kat give two hikers a ride into town.
Kat hiked two miles with me today on the AT before turning around. I hope I won't be calling her again for a ride home.
It's strange to be around new people. It's a different type of hiker. Many only hike ten to 15 miles a day. They speak of spending half days flying kites or playing wiffleball. Few are on any time restraints and no one seems competitive on being passed. No one has spoken of pack weight, ultra-light hiking or gear. Some are grossly overweight. My previous group often saw this hike as a race. I'm racing against the clock, but I should have enough time. August 15 will be 154 days. There should be no reason why I don't finish in five-months time.
I spend the night tonight at Partnership Shelter. I ordered pizza and Mt. Dew, which I didn't seem to enjoy because I've been home the last three weeks feeding my face whatever I wanted. I didn't walk enough today to build up a big appetite. 12 miles or so are on the plate for tomorrow to the Happy Hiker Hollow, in Atkins, VA.

Day 43, April 26, Sunday

Start: Partnership Shelter
End: Happy Hiker Hollow, Atkins, VA.
Mileage: 12.2 miles, 538.3 miles from Springer

I broke camp late today as a group of hikers lingered cooking breakfast. No one seemed to be in a huge hurry to reach Atkins, VA or other points beyond. Two hikers, Mud Flaps and One Stick, woke at daybreak and hit the trail by 7:30 a.m., but they are early risers and took their time to hike the relatively easy 12.2 miles. I left camp at 9:20 a.m. alone, but due to my two hour lunch, Loon and Growler caught me. The three of us hiked the remaining 4.5 miles to Atkins where we shuttled to Happy Hiker Hollow. Mud Flaps and One Stick were already showered and lounging on the front porch of this old farmhouse when we arrived.
The Hollow is one of the best hostels on the trail, but it can only accommodate six people. The proprietors, Rambunny and Aqua, offer the usual hiker amenities, such as internet and laundry, but the food was amazing. I couldn't eat more unless I busted a gut.
I didn't feel strong today hiking. I'm not used to the heat and I don't have confidence in my shin, which is holding up. My lungs didn't fall behind my legs during my hiatus. I'm impatient for my old self, minus the shin splint. I want 25 mile days, not 14, but I'm not there yet.
I'll continue to pace myself tomorrow with 14 miles planned, which I aim to follow up with 19 miles and 23 miles. I'm building myself from almost scratch. It's a good lesson to learn how fast hard work can vanish. I aim for Pearisburg by Friday, followed by Catawba Tuesday. From Catawba, I should need two to three weeks to reach the Winger's house. I may be into New Jersey by June 5.

Day 44, April 27, Monday

Start: Happy Hiker Hollow, Atkins, VA
End: Campsite .5 miles from Knot Maul Shelter
Mileage: 14.5 miles, 552.8 miles from Springer

Today was a scorcher. The mid-morning humidity was near 80 percent and temps reached the high 80s. This will take some getting accustomed to. When I left the trail April 2 there were flurries the night before at the Grayson Highlands. The heat made me lazy today. The 14+ miles were pretty easy with nice meadows and beautiful views of the rolling hills of Southwest Virginia. Parts of today were as pretty as any other time on the trail.
I hiked at times with Growler, Mud Flaps and One Stick. Bender also popped in and out of the day. Loon was a constant companion until the last three miles. I also met Bow Willow today. I share the campsite with about eight others. They are all young with what seems to be more of a sense of joy than adventure. It's nice to be away from the competition of who can do the most miles, but I too want to get good miles under my belt.

Posted by Mike McCollum at 11:22 AM

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Back to the trail, seriously ... Vol. 2

April 23, 2009, Thursday


When I announced in my last blog that I would be returning to the AT last weekend, I didn't take into account the one person whose advice would be most helpful — my doctor. Another round of X-rays last week revealed no damage to the bone in my right leg, but I was advised to wait an additional two to three weeks before continuing my journey. I compromised by waiting 1.5 weeks, which accumulates to just over three weeks off the trail. That's three weeks and the return of my love handles, but I'm returning to the trail with a lighter load to reduce the strain on my legs.

The extra week off was filled with a kick ass Wilco concert in Athens, along with attending a Hawks playoff victory, a groovin concert by my brosef Erik, and drinks with an old high school friend, Idun. Further, I fully utilized my sister Kat's couch on a dozen occasions, including my first American Idol exposures. These kids are not very good.

Anyway, Kat is driving me back to the trail tomorrow. We'll spend the night in Marion, VA, and the following morning she'll drop me off on the side of the road and speed away. I'll be back on the trail with what I hope will be a blooming forest. Due to my three weeks off, I'm no longer assured enough time to finish the remaining 1,650 miles or so. Classes at Saint Louis Univ. start Aug. 24, but I don't know when I need to be on campus for orientation. I also need time to find a place to live. Due to my time constraints, I'll be spending less time in trail towns, so I may not be blogging as much as previously. I'll try to update pictures frequently, and I'll post a video blog a couple times a week while on the trail.

Happy trails buckaroos, Mike (Steamboat)

Song of the day ... 
"Walken" by Wilco

I'm walking
All by myself
I was talking to myself about you
What am I going to do

I was singing
This song about you
I was thinking about singing
This song for you

The more I think about it
The more I know it's true
The more I think about it
The more I'm sure it's you
Honey I think you're just right
You're just right

I was walking
Like I said by myself
I was talking
To myself about you
Like I always do

The more I think about it
The more I know it's true
The more I think about it
The more I'm sure it's you
Honey, I think you're just right
You're just rightPosted by Mike McCollum at 12:56 PM

Reactions: 

2 comments: Links to this post  

Email ThisBlogThis!Share to TwitterShare to FacebookShare to Pinterest

Labels: AT trekreturn to trailSong of the day

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Days 37 to 41, and back to the Trail

After spending the past two weeks resting my shin splint, which took me off the trail two weeks ago today, I've made plans to return to the Trail near Marion, Va., at Hurricane Campground, on Sunday.
The decision to return was more difficult than anticipated. I've enjoyed almost everything the past two weeks that could tempt me from returning, including two Braves games, three movies, time with Brinkley, a night at the lake house, many dinners out, regular e-mail access, TV, family and friends, a warm bed, showers, and the absence of 3,000-foot vertical climbs. So why should I endure more physical punishment on the trail and deny myself of these comforts? This has been a question I've been wrestling with I boarded an airplane in Johnson City, Tenn. on April 2. The answer is the same as when I left for the trail on Feb. 20, which I forgot in the discomfort of my legs. I want to experience the adventure again.
I've previously blogged about the amazing clarity on the trail that lifts the fog of daily life. Well, there's clarity when not wincing at every step. I miss that clarity of priorities, whether it be on a long term or short term basis. I miss feeling a sense of movement, rather than the stagnant laziness of waiting for my PhD program to begin in August. I hate the feeling that my trail friends are seeing amazing vistas and making more lifelong memories as I was on the couch icing my leg, watching Pineapple Express. There is little chance I'll catch them, which is a good thing, because keeping up with the young lads led to my overuse injuries, but the trail is flush with more hikers. I may miss the relative solitude afforded by my early start, but I'll be returning to a woods set to bloom with Springs in warmer temps. As the woods come alive, I too hope to hit my stride again and make my way north. The section ahead, through Virginia to Pennsylvania, is reportedly the easiest of the AT, so I can take my time to get my legs back under me. I've also gained about six pounds since my return, which is due to malaise induced by resting, eating, and alcohol.
Further, gaining acceptance to the American Studies PhD program at Saint Louis University did not provide the mental outlook I had anticipated. I thought acceptance would calm me and help me focus on the trail since the worry about future plans was settled. What actually happened was that I focused on my life in St. Louis instead, and I have become a bit anxious to get my life started there. I could move to StL, find an apartment and job until school starts. Why continue this silly hiking in the woods when real life decision are present? But, I do have time until these life situations come to fruition, and in the words of my father, "What else are you going to do?" Due to the two weeks off, I am now quite a way behind schedule-10 days behind schedule-so my window to get back on the trail to complete this journey before school is closing, but it hasn't closed yet. I don't want to hike if it means not finishing this summer. It's too difficult of an endevour to continuously change plans. Either I do it, or I don't.
Also, I've redesigned my blog to make the look a bit cleaner. There is no longer a menu bar to link to my GPS location, pictures, charity site, etc. The links are now listed at the top of the sidebar. Further, make sure you scroll to the bottom of the page to see my slideshow.
Take care and thanks for all the support. Continue to check my blog to see where I'm at. I'll need a few words of encouragement to continue and finish, so those are welcomed as well. Finally, I've included the last entries into my journal prior to the interruption. ~Steamboat

Day 37, March 28, Saturday

Start: Damascus, VA
End: Damascus, VA
Mileage: Zero Day, 463 miles from Springer Mtn.

~No Journaling

Day 38, March 29, Sunday

Start: Damascus, VA
End: Damascus, VA
Mileage: Zero Day, 463 miles from Springer Mtn.

~No Journaling

Day 39, March 30, Monday

Start: Damascus, VA
End: Lost Mountain Shelter
Mileage: 15.8 miles, 478.8 miles from Springer Mtn.

I didn't journal on my two ero days in Damascus, Va. Why? I can't say. I was not up late either night, nor was I particularly occupied. I think I wanted to get my mind off the trail for the weekend. This effort was unsuccessful as I spent a good amount of time in Damascus blogging, visiting the outfitter, resupplying and talking of the trail with fellow hikers. The only way to really leave the trail is to go home, which I'm not yet prepared to do despite numerous fantasies.
Harvey, Whiz Kid, the Brits and Spirit Fingers moved on yesterday without me. I needed more rest for my shin. I hope I received enough. I hope to catch Harley next week as he waits for his dad in Pearisburg, VA. I may never see the rest of the guys again, but Wes is a day behind me. If this was the group's last hurrah, then it was a good one. We had three hearty meals together with a lot of good converstaion.
The group, which Whiz Kid correctly labled officially a clique, was replaced at the hostel last night with an odd assortment of military vets, an 18-year-old SOBO, two friends from the Univ. of Colorado, and a guy who managed 50 miles in one day to get into Damascus.
I share the shelter tonight with the two CU guys and Zach, a fellow Sandy Springs native who returned from Iraq on Feb. 15 and hit the trail March 1.
I tried to take the hike today at an easy pace. I won't know until tomorrow how successful I was when I test my shin. It is still swollen, but the hiking today was much more comfortable than last week.
The best part of the day, except for my 35-minute trail-side nap, was sharing a mile or so of the trail with the Virginia Creeper Trail. It was very nicely graded for bicycles and was very even. If only the whole trail was so well maintained. There was even a nice footbridge that looked like an old railroad tressle. I aim for 17 miles or so tomorrow to rest the leg. I'm at least three nights from Atkins, VA, so I can't overdo it.

Day 40, March 31, Tuesday

Start: Lost Mountain Shelter
End: Old Orchard Shelter
Mileage: 23.2 miles, 502 miles from Springer

I expreienced a grab bag of emotions today on the trai. I did not get out of the gate very fast today. My pace was sluggish and my mind wasn't set for hiking.
Frankly, I entertained notions of quitting this morning. I had it planned out. I would hike to Atkins, Va by Thursday, then zero, and have Kat pick me up Saturday. I'll be home by Sunday, just in time for next week's opening day in baseball. I also miss Jen terribly. I was half way up Whitetop Mountain, paused i my tracks, wanting to be home, but what could I do? I have to at least walk to Atlkins or hitch a ride at the next road crossing, so I continued on, and as I did, my spirits rose infinately.
Although cloudy and windy, with a late shower, the second half the day was beautiful as I walked up Mt. Rogers, Va's highest peak, to the Grayson Highlands. The Highlands are a grassy, rock strewn area of mountaintops that are populated by ferrel ponies. The ponies eat foliage to keep the mountain tops bald, which has been their appearance for hundreds of years. I saw maybe 20 of them today, some of which were just a few feet away, grazing on the trail. This pleased me a lot and really made me feel better about the hike. I'm now at 500 miles and I saw some ferrel ponies! What other kick ass adventures lay ahead?
My hiking friends remain one day ahead of me. I'm on their pace, so I'm not making up ground, but I'm not falling behind. Both Harvey and Whiz Kid left me message in trail journals today. I'm with Zach and the Colorad guys tonight. they are a good sort as well.

Day 41, April 1, 2009, Tuesday

Start: Old Orchard Shelter
End: VA 16, Dickey Gap (Hitched to Marion, VA)
Mileage: 10.2 miles


~No Journaling

April 2, 2009, Wednesday
Flew home to Atlanta via Johnson City, Tenn.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

The sun hasn't set on my AT hike...

I left the trail last Wednesday, April 1, after visiting the Emergency Room in Marion, VA. I could no longer tolerate the pain in my shin, so I needed a Doctor's recommendation, which was to rest my shin splints for at least two weeks. I wasn't about to rest in Marion in a rundown hotel for two weeks, so I made my way home to Atlanta. I do plan to return to the trail, but I don't know when that will be. I'll have to get the OK from my doctor before I go. Most likely, I'll return to the AT a week after Easter. I also redesigned my Web site after exceeding the alloted bandwidth, which means too much data was uploaded, including pics and videos. I hope the new layout is more streamlined. I'll add some links to my charity page, satellite beacon, and pictures. New pictures have been uploaded to my slideshow at the bottom of the page, so scroll all the way down. I hope I didn't let anyone down by leaving the trail, but I couldn't continue on in my physical condition. I needed rest and I hope to return to my journey. If I don't make my way back to the trail, then my 500-plus miles was a truly epic experience and I appreciate everyone's support. Sincerley, Mike,"Steamboat"

Posted by Mike McCollum at 1:39 PM

Reactions: 

1 comment: Links to this post  

Email ThisBlogThis!Share to TwitterShare to FacebookShare to Pinterest

Labels: AT trek

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Days 16 to 24

March 15, Sunday
I'm blogging from the public library in Hot Springs, North Carolina. Kathleen and Mom are visiting this weekend. They've been treated with a pretty steady rainfall, but I've been treated with Brinkley. It's only been three weeks, but I feel like I've been away from that darn dog for months. I'm resting my knee up this weekend with my first two zero days before hitting the trail for a five-day push to Erwin. I'll be going at it solo because I wanted an extra day to rest my knee. Harvey will be pushing on with his sister Flo, whom I've given the trail name "FlorenceGump." She's also a runner. Harvey's also been joined by his dog Harley for the remainder of the trip, so I'm sure to catch up if only to be around another dog.
I didn't journal at all this weekend on account of eating too much and lounging in the hot tub. I'll try to provide a quick wrap up of my first two zero days next week. Again, thanks for all the e-mails, and no, I have not heard from any Grad Schools yet.

-Steamboat-

Day 16, March 7, Saturday

Start: Fontana Dam Shelter

Stop: Russell Field Shelter

Mileage: 13.5 miles

Miles from Springer Mtn: 177.5

THE GREAT SMOKEY MOUNTAINS NATIONAL PARK

Today was the tale of two hikes. At times I felt I had found my stride. I led the way up Shuckstack Mountain, which had a rickety fire tower Harvey and I snacked at. By mid-afternoon I was spent and looking forward to finishing the day. My left foot sprouted a marble-sized blister that put a damper on the warmest day of the trek.

We awoke to a heavy fog that completely blocked the view of Fontana Lake, which was only 30 yards away, but by the time we crossed the dam, the sun had burned off much of the fog and the early morning mist abated. After viewing a beautiful scene over the dam where the fog rolled through the valley beneath the dam, we walked up a TVA road about 1 mile to the trailhead. It was 4 miles up to Shuckstack, and I felt strong. Once I switch to lightweight socks, I think my blisters will cease to be a problem. My feet are just sweating too much in the warmer weather and mid-weight boots. I performed a little foot-911 tonight and I hope to heave one less worry over the next week. I'm very excited to see Kat on Saturday and nothing will stop me from seeing her and Brinks!

Today's big news was Harvey spotting two bear cubs about 500 feet down a ravine. Thankfully, the mother was nowhere in sight. We also met our first Ridge Runner today at Mollies Ridge Shelter. I unfortunately forgot to ask his name. I appreciate their efforts on the part of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy to maintain the trail, teach hikers Leave No Trace policies, and impart their bits of information to us. It's unfortunate that they are even needed due to cut backs in National Park budgets for full-time staff.

Day 17, March 8, Sunday

Start: Russell Field Shelter
End: Silers Bald Shelter
Mileage: 14.7 miles
Miles from Springer Mtn: 192.2

Ridge walking is almost always a pleasurable experience, and in the Smokey’s, where the ridge is often the state line between Tennessee and North Carolina, it’s no exception. The best part of ridge walking is having a view to the left and right. (I have not taken the opportunity to pee into one state while standing in another, which seems to please many hikers quite a bit too much.)
With mostly an easterly course through the Smokey Mountains our views are to the North and South. Soon our path will change course North, which makes our destination in Maine a more obtainable goal—at least in my mind.
We hiked 14.7 miles today, but it felt like 100. My left knee hurt so bad today that I tasted bile in my mouth from pain induced vomit that never ran its course. It’s simply an overuse injury, but there isn’t exactly an amazing spot for a zero when I’m 2.5 days each way down the trail to civilization, or Gatlinburg. I’m crossing my fingers that a long sleep and Vitamin I (Advil) will make the swelling go down. Today is also the beginning of Daylight savings, so it’s near our usual 7 pm bedtime, but it’s still light out. Our bodies adjust to the comings and goings of the mountains, so today is a bit of an adjustment.
Tomorrow we will see Clingmans Dome, the highest point on the Appalachian Trail. At 6,643 feet, that is a few hundred feet short of Steamboat! Tomorrow will also mark our 200th mile on the trail. It’s quite an accomplishment. It’s daunting to think of how much further I have left to go. As of tonight, it’s 1,986.1 miles. I’m sub 2,000 miles, which Harvey and I hit early in the day. A Jolly Rancher celebration was in order.

Day 18, March 9, Monday

Start: Silers Bald Shelter
End: Icewater Spring Shelter
Mileage: 15.5 miles
Miles from Springer Mtn: 207.7

When hiking on the trail it’s essential to give yourself little milestones each day to keep your spirits up and forget it is 2,178 miles to Katahdin. Some days it’s simply looking 4 miles ahead to the next shelter to lunch and to check the trail register. Other days it’s crossing a busy intersection, such as we did today at Newfound Gap. Harvey and I achieved two major milestones today. First, we reached Clingmans Dome, which is the highest point on the trail, and 3.6 miles later we passed the 200-mile mark. I did both of these achievements on one good leg, for my left knee continued to flame up. Thankfully, today didn’t have too many ups and downs. I iced my knee at dinner and it already feels exponentially better.
The hike itself was beautiful today, other than some very deep patches of mud. Often, when the trees turned to firs and spruces, I felt like I was back in Colorado. With all the mud, Brinkley would have been a mess, and in heaven.
Unfortunately, my thoughts today consisted of my broken down body. I thought this third week would begin to build myself up from being torn down the first two weeks. Both feet, and now both knees have given me considerable discomfort. Harvey wants to go 20 miles tomorrow, but I don’t know if my leg can take it. I would love to push myself if I’m feeling up to it.
We share the shelter with one thru-hiker, “Rail,” from Cumming, GA. Our two bunkmates from Russell Field thought he was a girl, and it’s easy to see why. His waist is as thin as my calf. Also joining us are three friends from New Hampshire and a section hiker, “Mountain Hopper,” who goes to Bama. I didn’t catch many names tonight, but having company is always, well almost always, good on the trail.

Day 19, March 10, Tuesday

Start: Icewater Spring Shelter
End: Cosby Knob Shelter
Mileage: 20.3 miles
Miles from Springer Mtn: 228

My wobbly left knee held up for a 20.3-mile day today. At mile 12.4, we stopped at the Tri Corner Knob Shelter, but I was convinced by Harvey to push on to Cosby Knob. Despite the soreness in my left knee, I was easily swayed. I wanted a 20-miler very badly.
I hiked most of the day alone, and I was about a half-mile behind Harvey and Mountain Hopper, due to my slow, limping pace. The day still passed quickly as I was lost in my thoughts. Most of those thoughts were cursing my knee because the weather was beautiful. I didn’t want a nagging injury to ruing a pleasant hiking day.
The 20 miles were not too difficult. It was a lot of ridge running with a few ups and downs. We summitedMt. Sequoyah and Mt. Chapman, and we had a gorgeous view early in the day at Charlie’s Bunion.
Tonight I share the shelter with 12 people or so in a 12-person shelter. It’s very close quarters. I’m also in the rare position of being the oldest one in camp. We have 2 high school thru-hikers, Wooden Spoon and Wooden Duck, along with several young section hikers. I’m pretty beat from the long day, but I’m hoping for an early start to get down to leave the Smokey’s and roll into Standing Bear Farm to shower, blog and wash my clothes.

Day 20, March 11, Wednesday

Start: Cosby Knob Shelter
End: Standing Bear Farm
Mileage: 10.7 miles
Miles from Springer Mtn: 238.4

Downhills are not a good time to either make up some time or to lose yourself in your thoughts. Today I did both with only little consequence. Harvey and I maintained a solid pace downhill for five miles to reach Standing Bear Farm. When we reached the state line near the Pigeon River, we ended up catching a ride 15 miles into Cosby, N.C., with Nick, who’s a section hiker that stayed with us last night. Nick was done with his hike and he was getting ready to drive home to Connecticut, but he decided lunch with four smelly thru-hikers and Mountain Hopper was worth a two-hour delay home.
Wooden Spoon, Wooden Duck, Harvey (“Jolly Rancher” from hence forth), and I, along with Mountain Hopper, piled into Nick’s mid-size SUV with 7 packs and drove a very uncomfortable 20 minutes to Mama’s Kitchen. The restaurant is exactly what I picture a roadside diner on Route 66. It was in a gas station, it was cheap, locally owned and delicious. I was so hungry I could have eaten anything. Even the Sarah Lee pie tasted homemade. I ate two entrees, two pieces of pie and two 20-ounce Dr. Peppers.
There is something beautiful about eating amongst thru-hikers. I noticed it in Franklin. There is simply pure satisfaction in the moment. We appreciate food so much and happiness is best when shared, as the saying goes. As in Franklin, we all had little in common as in background or interests other than being thru-hikers. We all seemed to enjoy being around others who smelled just as bad, who are just as tired, and who were just as happy.
Nick, who is attempting a three-month thru-hike in May, dropped us at the trailhead where we said goodbye to Trail Hopper, who was hitching home to Nashville. The four of us headed North into the woods, which then paired off into twos as the Wooden Kids pushed on to Hot Springs. It was a short hike to the hostel, but very noteworthy. We met a Forest Service worker, Gray, who thru-hiked in 2000. He would strike the steering wheel with his palm and sigh, “Man, I’m jealous of you two!” Gray was managing a 15-acre fire that was between Standing Bear and us. It was eerie walking through the ashen remains of a plush forest that was still smoldering. Just as we departed Gray, I found two excellent Leki poles! One seemed broke, but a quick fix, which some day hiker must have neglected, and I had new poles. It was some trail magic, but I was sorry to let go of my leafy pole I found walking into the Smokey’s. I planted it firmly in the ground in the middle of the trail in the chance another day hiker takes it as their own. It was a great stick and I had many plans for it, such as carving my name into the handle. Maybe it will just rot in peace.
Standing Bear Farm is almost too much to write about. I’m staying in a cabin with two female Marines and Harvey. The caretaker is a formerthru-hiker named Rockhound, on account of his masonry skills displayed at the farm-like hostel. The Marines go by “The Jerky Girls.” It’s a name given to them by Grumpy because of the massive amount of dried meat on them. Harvey, Rockhound, two SOBOs and the Marine girls sat around a nice campfire tonight and talked of the trail and Iraq. They had both completed tours. Rockhound is also a vet, who makes a dozen or so I’ve met on the trail. The girls were at the end of a six-day trip training for the Batan Death March hike, and then it’s back to their bases. I have many days ahead of me, but no base, or job, to report back to.

Day 21, March 12, Thursday

Start: Standing Bear Farm
End: Walnut Mtn. Shelter
Mileage: 20.3 miles
Miles from Springer Mtn: 258.7

True trail magic is not blind luck, like when I found Leki poles on Wednesday. Trail magic is when a trail angel goes out of their way to make your hike better. Harvey and I experienced the latter today. In a small stream less than a mile from Max Patch were two cans of soda and four mini Snickers perched on top. We later learned there were four cans when Wood Spoon and Wooden Duck said they took two and left two for the next hikers, which fortunately was Harvey and I. It was so much more special than completing 20.3 tough miles today or seeing the amazing view atop Max Patch, which is an enormous bald that provided a view of Mt. Mitchell, the highest point east of the Mississippi River. The cold returned, but tonight I’m very much please with the day.

Day 22, March 13, Friday

Start: Walnut Mtn. Shelter
End: Hot Springs, NC
Mileage: 
Miles from Springer Mtn: 271.8

Day 23, March 14, Saturday

Start: Hot Springs, NC
End: Hot Springs, NC
Mileage: ZERO DAY
Miles from Springer Mtn: 271.8

Day 24, March 15, Sunday

Start: Hot Springs, NC
End: Hot Springs, NC
Mileage: ZERO DAY
Miles from Springer Mtn: 271.8

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Days 7 to 9

Sunday, March 1, 2009 - Franklin, NC.
I'm blogging Sunday night from the toasty office of the Budget Inn in Franklin, NC. I've fixed the SPOT tracking link, so the next 7 days of progress should begin shortly. The SPOT will only show where I've been for the last 7 days, so Day 1 should be tomorrow. Also, I've posted 2 videos to the blog this week. I'll try to add one every 3 days or so. I have not yet journaled tonight, so the three days of entries I'm listing are the three days leading up to Franklin, but I hiked 15.8 miles today through some pretty tough weather and terrain. I may take a Zero day tomorrow due to some bad weather rolling through the area, but you'll just have to stay tuned to find out. Also, I found out today I won a Colorado Press Association Award for best Education Story. It's nice to get good nice while hiking in the cold. Take care and happy trails Buckaroos. - "Steamboat" - Mike Mc.

Day 7, Feb. 26, Thursday

Start: Trey Mountain Shelter
Stop: Dicks Creek Gap, Hiawasse, GA
Mileage: 11 miles
Miles from Springer Mtn: 67.5

Today was 11 miles through the clouds to Hiawassee, Ga., which I assume was once a forgotten hamlet that has turned into a a second-home lake resort area. It also caters toward hikers. I awoke at the Trey Mountain Shelter to a light rain and heavy mist. The mist felt cool as I walked down Trey Mtn. It clinged to my bandanna and shirt like it was the condensation of the mountain as it exhaled on me in the cool temps. Harvey, Wes and I trekked in more silence today up one big climb, Powell Mountain, and many ups and downs. Along the way we passed a sign for "Swag of the Blue Mountains," which we could not figure why it was named in such a way. Wes is more talkative than Harvey while hiking and we spent most of the day with Harvey taking the lead, me in the middle, and Wes trailing last. Wes had been doing big miles, but it caught up to him and he's battling ankle issues on the ups and knee issues on the downs.
We descended to Dicks Creek Gap at about 2:15 pm., which was a good 5.5 hour day. We called Gary at the Blueberry Patch Hostel and he shuttled us to his home within 15 minutes. Dicks Creek is also near Lake Burton and the Rabun County line. A night at the lake house would have been nice.
The Blueberry Patch is a special place on the AT. It is run as a donation only hostel with full amenities, including laundry service, shower and breakfast. Also, a fridge full of Coca-Cola. We borrowed Gary's Jeep and wen to town to fatten up on a China Buffet, blog at the library and grocery shop. I bought way too much food, but I'll be quick to eat it. I did not enjoy the food as much as I had hoped at the buffet. The thought of a buffet propelled me down the mountain today. I guess I wasn't in the woods long enough. However, the shower was Nirvana. Body Powders, soaps, hot water, big cushy towels-this truly made me fell civilized again. I'm not sure how far I'll push tomorrow. Rain is expected. Also, I'm beginning to look like Lenin, with a shaved head.

Day 8, Feb. 27, Friday

Start: Hiawassee, Ga., The Blueberry Patch
End: Muskrat Creek Shelter
Mileage: 11.8 miles
Miles from Springer: 79.3 miles

I left Georgia, my home state, today and crossed into North Carolina at mile 76.4. A simple sign was nailed to a tree with NC/GA carved shallow into the wood. It seemed to be a meek welcome to the biggest milestone so far on the AT for a NOBO (Northbounder), crossing the first state line.
Today began with a stack of pancakes, sausage, cheese biscuits, eggs, coffee and OJ, courtesy of Gary and his wife at the Blueberry Patch. With a full stomach, Wes, Harvey and I, along with fellow hostel mates Jeff and Dan, hit the trail just before 10 am. Within minutes, the sky began to let loose a storm upon us. I actually enjoyed it. With mild temps, the rain was soothing and cool. Once it lifted, the trail was a bright white cloud. Visibility was about 30 yards, but we often descended into clean, crisp air that cut the fog. The dark charcoal mud made my feet slide a few inches with each step. The trail today was mostly gentle PUDS (Pointless ups and downs) with a couple steep inclines once in North Carolina. I enjoyed how the trees created tunnels through the mist. It reminded me of Sleepy Hollow.
The shelter tonight is small. It's me, Harvey, Wes and "Grumpy," a former Army guy who is going to law school in the fall. Dan and Jeff are tenting. The mice are already running the roof. The sound of the feet makes my stomach turn. God knows what they do when I'm sleeping. They are my least liked aspect of the trail. I seemed to be the entertainment for the night. To hang my food bag from bears I had a difficult time getting a full Nalgene bottle over a Y shaped branch. I hit it on the third try. The second try I hit the tree, which has earned me the nickname "wide right." Harvey had a difficult time too, but mine seemed to be more comical. I'm not at least 2 days from Franklin, NC. I'm not sure if I'll stay a night there. Wes and Harvey want to move on. Bad weather awaits us in the coming days. My knee is better, but my right arch is a pain. If it's not one thing it's another.

Day 9, Feb. 28, Saturday

Start: Muskrat Creek Shelter
End: Carter Gap Shelter
Mileage: 12.5 miles
Miles from Springer: 91.8 miles

It's another cold night on the trail. Temps are pushing freezing as a steady rain drums the aluminum roof of the shelter. I went to bed last night to rain. Awoke to rain, hiked in the rain and now I end my day with another rain shower. Today was not a good day on the trail despite moments of beauty. The creeks and water runoffs are swollen with rain water, which makes for a nice picture against a backdrop of moss covered rocks, misty ridge lines and other fallen leaves. What made the day sub-par, other than the rain, was cutting my index finger with myLeatherman knife while slicing a sausage at lunch. The wound is pretty bad and I may need stitches when I reach Franklin tomorrow. Wes stopped the bleeding with gauze and duck tape, and Grumpy cleaned and dressed my wound when we made camp. I hiked today alone, except for a short period prior to lunch with Wes. The three of us know where to stop for lunch and camp, so we hike at our own paces during the day. Harvey is always first to camp.
The three of us may go our separate ways tomorrow as I look to overnight in Franklin, Wes goes off the trail to see nearby friends, and Harvey marches on to the Smokies. I don't want a zero day on Monday, but I may not hike far from the trail head. Dan also shares the shelter with us and Grumpy. Tatonka tented tonight not far away. Jeff pushed on to Franklin it seems.
Last night was my first solid sleep of the trip. It's difficult to sleep well when lights out is at 7 pm. I'm writing by the light of my headlamp, but the cold and exhaustion are rushing me to sleep. It's 15.8 miles to Franklin tomorrow. I better get my rest.

Posted by Mike McCollum at 7:42 PM

Reactions: 

3 comments: Links to this post  

Email ThisBlogThis!Share to TwitterShare to FacebookShare to Pinterest

Labels: AT trekDanFranklinGrumpyHarveyJeffNorth CarolinashelterTatonkaWes

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Days 6 to 1

My Spot tracking system is not properly working, but it will soon be up and running. I'm in the public library at Hiawassee, GA updating my blog. I'm copying these journal entries straight from my trail journal. Read from the bottom up. I'm often too cold or too tired at night to write very eloquently, but these are some of the experiences I've had so far. Thanks to all my family and friends who have sent me notes while I'm on the trail. I've gone more than 60 miles so far, and I'm dog tired. - Mike Mc. ("Steamboat") Day 7, February 26, 2009

Day 6, February 25, Wednesday

Start: Low Gap Shelter
End: Trey Mountain Shelter
Mileage: 15 miles
56.5 miles from Springer Mountain.

Today was my first 15-mile day and my knee is feeling better. I'm without a camera, except my phone, so that has me down, but I'm still 2,121.8 miles from the end at Katahdin. THis long distance will be conquered. I summited three mountains today: Blue Mtn., Rocky Mtn., and Tray Mtn. After 14 miles, the last one mile up Tray was killer. It's only 7:15 pm and I am beat. TOmorrow I should reach Hiawassee, Ga, where I plan to stay at the Blueberrry Patch Hostel run by Christian ministries.
I continued to hike with Harvey today. We mostly hiked in the silence of the trees, punctuated by the movement of our clothes, the huffing of our breath and the pounding of our feet against the cold, frozen ground. We woke up, ate breakfast, broke camp and hiked. It's a pattern that is strangely appealing. You have a purpose to go from point A to B, survival. We pushed 15 miles today to avoid approaching rains. With daytime temps near 50, rain could easilty lead to hypothermia. If rain persists in Hiawassee on Friday, I may stay to rest my knee. Again, I'm in no hurry. My nevers about Grad school do occupy much of my daily hiking. I should know soon about Texas. Also, reading over my previous entries I am disapointed in the quality of writing. I'm far too tired at night to put much thought into this journal. I may not the writer I thought I was. What am I really good at? I'm OK at hiking, and that is the chore ahead of me, so tomorrow continues this adventure, despite what I write about it. Instead I'll focus on what I feel about the trek, not what I can put on paper.

Day5, February 24, Tuesday

Start: Walasi-yi Outdoor Recreation Center
End: Low Gap Shelter
Mileage: 10.8 miles

It's beginning to become difficult to remember the little details of life as I sit here before a raging fire at the low gap shelter. I hiked about 10.8 miles today on my new magic legs, for I now have 2 poles. They were fixed at the Walasi-yi last night. Today my pack was shook down by Winton, the owner. I cut my bag weight down to about 37 pounds before food. My camera was sent home along with my water filter. I'm now using drops to purify my water. I'll buy a tiny digital camera in Hiawassee, my next stop in 2.5 days.
Havey left before me today at 10:15 am as I was getting the shake down. I left an hour later and caught him on the trail lunching at 1 p.m. or so. We hiked until 4:45 pm until we reached low gap shelter, which is clean, has a close water source and a fire pit. Harvey and I have about the same pace, but I'm a tad bit slower due to my knee. I'm not sure how long we continue on same pace. I enjoy having the company and someone to push me. I'm in no hurry to finish and we all have our own hike to day.
The lone wolf sleeps with us tonight. He's a trip, but a snorer. I have yet to get a good night's sleep.

Day 4, February 23, Monday

Start: Woody Gap Campground
End: Walasi-yi at Neels Gap
Mileage: 10.6 miles

Last night was too cold to journal. The wind and single digit temps made for a quick campsite and bedtime. Today I awoke to 14 degree weather and heavy winds. I had to set up camp with Harvey in a little clearing just off the road at Woody Gap. We hit the trail this AM at about 9 and reached the Walasi-yi Hostel at 3:30 pm. Today was another batch of pointless ups and downs (PUDs), but we were afforded two beautiful views. The first was Big Cedar Mountain and the second was Blood Mountain, which is the highest peak on the GA Appalachian Trail. This was quite the milestone and Havey and I celebrated with a Jolley Rancher. I don't know how far he wants to travel with me, but he seems to wat up for me as I struggle with my knee. This injury, my PT Band (?), is due to over use. I hope it will not take me off the trail for long. I hope for an easy day tomorrow to test some streches Harvey showed me. The pain dulls for hours at a time before emerging in sudden blasts of pain on the upper, outside parts of the knee. Also, parts of my quad are numb. This bothers me.
The Walasi-yi is a pretty cool place. Just off the road at US 19 and 129, the shop is the first taste of civilzation in 3 days. I drank a grape soda and 2 oatmeal raising snacks. The staff plans to shake my pack down tomorrow, and I may also buy warmer clothes. I may need a fleece.
I am staying ath the Walasi-yi's hostel, which is a total trip. The caretaker is named Pirate. He's a portly, beareded, hippie, biker dude who made us dinner. Nine of us are sharing the bunkhouse and dinner was provided. A hiker named Gentle Ben has been here for a few weeks resting. He's very "gentle" and would not accept the free PBR offered to us by AT Cool Breeze. Pirate cooked us Beans with cornberad. I also had a hot shower and laundry. I talked with Kat and Jen.

Day 3, February 22, Sunday

Start: Hawk Mountain Shelter
End: Woody Gap Campsite
Mileage: 12.3 miles

No journaling tonight. Cold. Maybe single digits. Toes even cold with 2 layers of socks. Slept poorly.

Day 2, February 21, Saturday

Start: Len Foote Hikers Inn
End: Hawk Mountain Shelter
Mileage: 11.6 miles

My first night in a shelter makes me think twice about sharing this experience with others. I hope to pass one hiker who feels the need to fart every few minutes and then giggle about it. (This is a guy we call Booger, who later dropped from the trail) Everyone here seems to give a polite laugh, but they seem clearly annoyed. There are about 9 of us sharing the shelter tonight.A few more are scattered in hammocks. The Hawk Mountain Shelter is utilitarian, rustic and will serve me just fine. I'm with four others on the main sleeping platform.
The weather is expected to turn unseasonably cold through tomorrow with some snow expected today. Today was very pleasant with most of my hike in the 50s. I met a group of day hikers on the top of Springer from the North Georgia College in Dahlonaga. They were led by Jeff, a 1993 Thru-hiker who I hiked with for more than 2 miles today. He was a SOBO (Southbounder) and was a great source of advice. I also met a woman hiking with her kids and grandkids who said a prayer for me after taking a picture with me and her grandkids. This celebrity is strange> I got a fist bump from a day-hiker and other congrats on top of Springer.
Despite the lakc of adaquet bunk partners my spirits are good, but my body is not. I'm having severe shoulder pains due to my poorly fitted bag. My left arch also is a problem, but my knees are good. My wind is finding me.
I spoke to Jen tonight and I miss her. I do not show her enough. The light is fading me and the muscle relaxers are kicking in, so sleep is near. Tommorrow I'm aiming for Gooch Mtn Shelter 7.4 miles away. I may go further to find new company.

Day 1, February 20, Friday

Start: Amicolola Falls Visitors Center
End: Len Foote Hikers Inn
Not yet on the AT.

Day one is in the books as I'm restin gmy dog-tired knees and feet at the Len Foote Hikers Inn. I was the 24th Hiker who had registered at the vistors center at Amicololaa, but I'm the first to stay at the Hikers Inn this season. This made me a bit of dinner celebrity, which I was not up for due to the poor physical shape I'm in, which left me mentally crippled as the fellow guests peppered me with the same questions I've been answering since August. "How far are you going?" "You going alone?" "Aren't you scared?" And always, ""Are you bringing a gun?"
Kat accompanied me on this first day, which isn't even on the Appalachian Trail yet. We arrived at 4:20 or so and later sat down to a family style dinner of pot roast, sweet corn, wheat rolls, salad, potatoes, and peach cobbler. I of course ate Kat's cobbler.
One of my fears I had concerning my trip was my pack weight. More weight adn my chances of exhaustion and injury increases. I checked in at the vistor's center with 54 pounds (NOTE: I'm now down to 37 lbs) My ideal weight was under 40, but I anticipated up to 45. I shook my bag down by at least five to six pounds at the Inn tonight. Only one man had a heavier bag than I did departing Amicolola, and his was in the 60s. The shakedown took my long lens and case, umbrella, spice kit, a small drinking cup mad eof a rubbery substance similar to a children's toy, adn my odds and ends, including my chargers for my Xmp3 player and camera. I also question the fit of my bag, which I anticiapte will cause me mcuh grief in teh coming weeks.
First days are always tough, but having Kat keeps things light and loneliness at bay. Tomorrow I'm left to myself. God only knows what lays ahead on this adventure.

Posted by Mike McCollum at 3:26 PM

Reactions: 

1 comment: Links to this post  

Email ThisBlogThis!Share to TwitterShare to FacebookShare to Pinterest

Labels: AmicololaAT trekLen Footeshelter

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Sitting in the Mid-Day Sun


I wanted to say something profound or sentimental prior to hitting the trail tomorrow, but my thoughts are lost in the five-month task ahead. With little focus available to blog, I would like to take the opportunity to apologize tonight, my last night before I hit the Appalachian Trail, to anyone I may have missed seeing in Atlanta prior to my departure. I'm also sorry to my Steamboat friends whom I left hanging my last few weeks in town. I want them all to know that despite my lack of goodbyes, they mean a lot to me.

On this last night in a warm bed, I'm sitting here contemplating the adventure I'm about to embark on. I'm no Bear Grylls or Survivorman. I've only slept a few nights in the woods, and I've never dropped a duece there. Some have asked if I'm bringing a gun, while others have asked if I'll be lonely. But what everyone seems to agree upon is that I'm a bit too doughy to be doing this endeavor and that a bear while likely eat me. They are right about the former, and hopefully 100 percent wrong on the latter.

I don't know what to expect to gain from hiking for five months. I doubt I will gain much insight about the foundations of the universe, God or how to pull the country out of the Great Depression we are facing, but I do hope to gain some perspective on priorities. I think this is secondary to my main goal, which is to have a great adventure. I think everyone deserves an adventure, and this one is mine. I may not be climbing Everest, but I'll have a good story to tell my grand kids one day. So, on that note, I invite you all – my friends and family — to join me on this trek at one point or another. Keep up to date on my location through my GPS tracker, which is linked at the top Toolbar menu under "Where am I?" If I'm close enough to you, come meet me an hike the trail for a day or two. You could also just meet me and buy me dinner and put me up in a nice hotel! Ya, there are hotels along the way. I'm not really roughing it like Magellen.

The toughest part of this trip is not what's ahead of me, but what I'm leaving behind. I'm leaving the love of my dog, Brinkley, who can't join me due to the strain it may put on him in his older years. He's due to retire by the fire by now. We've done at least 1,000 miles together already. I'm also leaving behind an amazing girlfriend, good friends, family and Braves games. I'm not leaving behind my sister Kat until Saturday because she's hiking with her big brother the first day to the Len Foote Hikers Inn, where I'll spend my first night, albeit a comfortable one, on my trip. Also, to Kat's Fourth-grade religion class - THANKS FOR THE GOOD LUCK CARDS! Each student made me a card that honestly left me, who has a heard of stone, a little choked up.

Further, I won't be documenting this trip through video like I had planned. Although I have not yet heard back from graduate schools, I remain hopeful that my path leads me to school this fall. With starting a PhD program, I would not have the time to edit the video. I will document my travels through photos, but my documentary plans have fallen to the wayside.

I'm also using this trip as an opportunity to raise money for the Nature Conservancy's "Plant a Billion Trees" campaign. Many of you have already donated to the cause, and for those who haven't, I put no pressure on you to do so. If you would like to make a contribution, click on the donation widget to the right of the Web page. There is also a video to the right of the page that describes the campaign in more detail.

So, I'm off. Take care and drop me an email from time to time to keep me motivated or to keep me up to date with what's going on in the world. If you would like to be included on an e-mail list that updates when a new blog is posted, which I'm aiming for once a week, then e-mail me your address.

Best wishes, Mike McCollum.

Song of the Day:
Sitting In The Midday Sun :
The Kinks

I'm sitting by the side of a river
Underneath the pale blue sky
I've got no need to worry, I'm in no hurry
I'm looking at the world go by.

Just sitting in the midday sun,
Just soaking up that currant bun,
With no particular purpose or reason
Sitting in the midday sun.

Everybody say I'm lazy
They all tell me get a job you slob,
I'd rather be a hobo walking round with nothing
Than a rich man scared of losing all he's got.

So I'm just sitting in the midday sun
Just soaking up that currant bun,
Why should I have to give my reasons
For sitting in the midday sun

Oh look at all the ladies
Looking their best in their summer dresses,
Oh sitting in the sun.
I've got no home,
I've got no money
But who needs a job when it's sunny. Wah Wah.

I haven't got a steady occupation
And I can't afford a telephone.
I haven't got a stereo, radio or video
A mortgage, overdraft, a bank loan.

The only way that I can get my fun
Is by sitting in the midday sun
With no particular purpose or reason
Sitting in the midday sun.

Oh listen to the people,
Say I'm a failure and I've got nothing,
Ah but if they would only see
I've got my pride,
I've got no money,
But who needs a job when it's sunny. Wah Wah.

Everybody thinks I'm crazy,
And everybody says I'm dumb,
But when I see the people shouting at each other
I'd rather be an out of work bum.

So I'm just sitting in the midday sun
Just soaking up that currant bun,
With no particular purpose or reason
Sitting in the midday sun

Posted by Mike McCollum at 9:53 PM

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Should he stay or should he go??

Brinkley and I have had quite a few adventures and I've been questioning whether I can bear to be without him during my five to six months on the Appalachian Trail. He's about eight years old, but he's had no problems hiking lately. There are two signeficent sections of the trail where he is forbidden — the first of which is in the Smokey Mountain National Park. I've been thinking that I could bring Brinks with me for the first three to four weeks to help my transition to the trail. A family member could pick him up in Hot Springs, NC prior to me entering SMNP. Brinks has never spent more than three days on any camping trip. Any suggestions on whether I should bring him or not? Would the first 100 miles or so be too strenuous on an older, yet sprightly dog?

Posted by Mike McCollum at 11:24 AM

Reactions: 

No comments: Links to this post  

Email ThisBlogThis!Share to TwitterShare to FacebookShare to Pinterest

Labels: AT trekBrinkley

Friday, November 21, 2008

Making Progress

With less than three months left until I hit the trail, I'm slowly making progress toward finishing Graduate School applications, saving money for my hike and wrapping up the sale of most of my possessions.
In the last seven days I have sold half of my living room furniture, taken the GRE, received 2/3 of my graduate school recommendations, sold my computer, bought a computer, kicked out a roommate, and found a new roommate. Who's ready for a drink??
Anyway, I'm still set on a Feb. 20 departure from Springer Mtn., GA, for my Appalachian Trail hike.
If you are one of the few people left in the country with deep pockets, check out my recently created gift registry regarding my hike.
http://www.rei.com/GiftRegistryDetails/GR1818505?cm_mmc=gift_reg-_-Outdoor_Adventure-_-announce-_-21Nov2008

I have not been the only one busy lately it seems. My good Steamboat-friend Amanda eloped last week and Jen moved to Boulder. Throw in some juicy local gossip and a nutty election, and November has the makings of a pretty noteworthy month.

I've also been thinking of the election lately and how important it must feel for African Americans in our country. I don't think Obama was elected on the color of his skin. Being black only made it harder. It was only about 15 years ago that the last Black confederate war widow died in Steamboat Springs (That's right, black people actually live in Colorado). I think that it's fitting that the song of the day (month) should be Sam Cooke's "A Change is Gonna Come." An additional debate can be whether his version is better than Marvin Gaye's or Aretha Franklin's.

I was born by the river in a little tent
Oh and just like the river I've been running ever since
It's been a long, a long time coming
But I know a change gonna come, oh yes it will

It's been too hard living but I'm afraid to die
Cause I don't know what's up there beyond the sky
It's been a long, a long time coming
But I know a change gonna come, oh yes it will

I go to the movie and I go downtown
Somebody keep telling me don't hang around
It's been a long, a long time coming
But I know a change gonna come, oh yes it will

Then I go to my brother
And I say brother help me please
But he winds up knocking me
Back down on my knees

Ohhhhhhhhh.....

There been times that I thought I couldn't last for long
But now I think I'm able to carry on
It's been a long, a long time coming
But I know a change gonna come, oh yes it will

Posted by Mike McCollum at 2:09 PM

Friday, October 17, 2008

Appalachain Trail history and facts

A.T. Essentials

From the Appalachian Trail Conservancy

In 1921, the Appalachian National Scenic Trail was simply an idea. Benton MacKaye – an off-and-on federal employee, educated as a forester and self-trained as a planner – proposed it as the connecting thread of “a project in regional planning.”

The efforts of countless volunteers made MacKaye's idea a reality. Today, the Appalachian Trail is best known as a simple footpath, yet it also has other identities – as a greenway, a flyway, a "mega-transect"; by which to monitor environmental health. It is the mission of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy to ensure that future generations will enjoy clean air and water, scenic vistas, wildlife and opportunities for simple recreation and renewal along the entire Trail corridor.

At a Glance

The Appalachian Trail, completed in 1937:

  • Is a unit of the National Park Service.
  • Is the nation's longest marked footpath, at approximately 2,175 miles.
  • Is the first national scenic trail, designated in 1968.
  • Houses more than 2,000 occurrences of rare, threatened, endangered, and sensitive plant and animal species.
  • Crosses six national parks.
  • Traverses eight national forests.
  • Touches 14 states.
  • Crosses numerous state and local forests and parks.
  • Is maintained by 30 trail clubs and multiple partnerships.

Threats to the A.T. experience include:

  • Highway construction
  • Housing developments
  • Invasive exotic plants
  • Declining air quality

Fun facts about the Appalachian Trail:

  • Lowest elevation: 124 feet.
  • Highest elevation: 6,625 feet.
  • There are 165,000 blazes along the length of the Trail.
  • More than 9,000 people have reported hiking the length of the Trail.
  • It takes approximately 5 million footsteps to walk the entire length of the Trail.

Posted by Mike McCollum at 1:44 PM

Monday, September 29, 2008

4.5 months to go...

The AT trek is still on and I've settled on a date: Feb. 20, 2009. It's only three days after my birthday and it gives me five months to complete the trip prior to going back to school for a PhD in American Studies. If I don't get in, then it's back to the drawing board.

The five schools I'm apply to for American Studies:
Univ. of Texas at Austin
Univ. of New Mexico
Emory University
George Washington
St. Louis

I'll be moving back to Atlanta around Feb. 1, depending upon when I find a sub-leaser for my Steamboat apt, to get myself together. Also, the fundraising is going well and I'm about 15% toward my goal.