Monday, March 23, 2015

AT Class of 2015 - A Quick Update

Just as "Clifford" finishes the Smoky Mountains, Andrew, now going by the trail name "Sling Shot", will be starting them.  Keep on hiking, hikers.  

Keep on Hiking Clifford and Sling Shot

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

AT Class of 2015 - A Man and His Dog

"And he is on his way!" - Hannah

This morning the second of my six hikers has started his journey.  Andrew (Double A) and his dog Aramis (The Hairy Missile) started on the Approach this morning.

It looks like a rainy start, but you know what they say; "No rain, no Maine".  

Follow Double A and HM here.  

Double A and the Hairy Missile
Clifford has crossed into North Carolina as per his last update.  From his other updates, this young man has already done a 20+  mile day to get into Neels Gap.  He has also gotten to experience Fresh Grounds the traveling trail magic guy.  

One down, 13 to go.
Keep on hiking people.  Next off will most likely be Treehugger, our Flip Flopper.  Scheduled to jump off April 4th.  

Hiker Tracker

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Trail Name Survey Results

Graphic from Appalachian Trials.
Check out an interesting article on the
frequency of trail names - here 
by Maggie Wallace
Back at the end of January, I posted a short five question survey asking about hiker's trail names on two or three different AT Hiker Facebook Groups.  I received 223 responses to the survey before it fell down on the feeds and out of people's view and notice.

With only 223 samples of a very large group, this survey isn't really scientifically viable, but it does paint an interesting picture of a cultural part of the trail.  

Of those 223 responses 77% said they had a trail name.

Total respondents 223
One of the questions I asked was how did you receive your trail name.  Most hikers have their trail name gifted to them by other hikers at 61%.  20% give it to themselves and 18% have it gifted by non-hikers.  You see a lot of mention in the hiking world that you need to have the name gifted to you and at almost 80% doing it that way, the survey supports this.  It still is OK to name yourself, but the practice tends to lean towards receiving the name by others.  The survey didn't ask this, but I think there are quite a few hikers who start out with a self given name and switch to a gifted one that comes along during their hike.  I have no real proof of this, it is just something I have seen on my travels.  Also, there is nothing wrong with doing it this way.  It's all good.  

Yes, I have a Trail Name
Of those who don't have trail names, most, (73%) are waiting for it to be gifted to them. Another 22% just haven't found the right one yet and are still waiting to find it.  

Those still seeking their Trail Name
There was one respondent who said they don't do trail names and also a couple who stated that they don't know what trail names are.  wtf?

The last question I asked was to share your story of how you got your name and many who participated in the survey wanted to see those stories posted.

Follow this link to see all the stories that were given.  The stories are the best part of a trail name and some of these are pretty interesting.

For me, Trail Names is a fun game I like to play out on the trail.  I carry a number of trail names (they are light and take up no space in my pack).  I change them out from time to time or pick up another one as things happen on the trail.  I also like suggesting names to others who walk the trail unnamed.  My trail name grows as I add up my miles.

For now, I go by EarthTone, but my whole trail name is El Jefe Maestro Obi wan, the Earth Toned Stiller Fan.  Each part of my name has special meaning to me and came to me in all the different ways I asked about on the survey.

Remember, a trail name becomes Yours when you answer to it and introduce yourself with it.

Thanks to all who participated in the survey.  I'm sure one day we will have an exhibit on Trail Names in the AT Museum and I hope this data will be a part of it.  

Keep on Hiking,

Monday, March 2, 2015

AT Class of 2015 - First Hiker Hits the Trail

Day 1: "I just want to get to the damn trail." - Clifford said with a laugh

Clifford is the trail name of Sam.  Sam is the first of the Class of Thru Hikers that I will be following this year.  I met Clifford and five other perspective Thru Hikers at the Northern Ruck in January at the Bears Den Hostel.  I mentioned them and my hope to follow them in my February AT Museum Volunteer Newsletter and I am excited for each of them as they start their journey.

Each year I usually follow a number of hikers that are at least semi regular at updating their hiking status.  I put little markers on my AT strip map and watch as they travel along the trail, ultimately, hopefully reaching their desired goal of Katahdin, Springer or somewhere in between.

Hiker Tracker
When I met this group of hikers, one that struck me was that they are covering the full spectrum of different types of hikers.  We have a solo north bounder (NOBO), a NOBO who will be traveling with his dog, a couple who will also be heading NOBO, a Flip-Flopper starting in Daleville and heading north for the first part of her journey and a solo SOBO (south bounder), who will be the last to start the trip.  We have males and females and younger and older hikers.  It will be very interesting to follow each of them, learning of their trials and tribulations and cheering them on as they figure out how to keep going.

Each of these hikers have agreed to let me track them and report on them as I can.  I will be getting most of my information from the hiker's on line journals and social networking posts.  If any of them are using a delay to protect their exact location, that delay will be a part of the reports.  

This year will be interesting as I have already met each of the hikers (except the hairy missile) and I think each of them has a good chance of making it all the way.  Of course, statistics are not in favor of that happening, but I have seen many hikers finish the trail that appeared at first glance to be totally unprepared.  I have also seen very prepared hikers get off the trail for various reasons.  There is no way to know, but each will tell a story, whether it ends at Big Stamp or Neels Gap, or goes all the way to Katahdin (or Springer for Justin).  I look forward to sharing their stories here.

Introductions:  Listed in order of jump off:

Sam aka Clifford - Clifford is 18 and is the first to start their hike.  He was originally scheduled to start on February 25th, then the 28th (due to the crazy weather that has rolled through the mountains) and has finally made it to the trail yesterday, March 1st.  The comment above is from his Facebook page for his hike.  It looks like the snow is still causing problems on the forest service road and Clifford had to head back to Amicalola Falls and hike the Approach Trail.  Regardless, he is on his way.  Good luck Clifford.  Keep on hiking.  

The famous Amicalola Falls Arch

Clifford at the falls

Andrew aka Double A - Double A is hiking with his dog Aramis aka the Hairy Missile. AA is 34 and just finished the Tuscarora Trail last year.  He also is an Adirondack peak bagger.  The two are scheduled to start the trail on March 10th.  Andrew will have the help of his girlfriend Hannah, who will help with the HM during the Smoky Mountains part of the hike and I'm sure there will be other meet-ups.  AA and HM's Trail Journals page is here.  

Joel and Patti aka Scoops and Iceberg - Patti had the trail name Iceberg suggested to her at the Northern Ruck, so she is trying it on for now.  Joel and Patti hail from Wilmington, DE and plan to start the trail somewhere around the end of March or the beginning of April.  Their hike will show how a couple can tackle the trail together.  I'm not going to guess the couple's ages, but I will say they are closer to my age than Clifford's.  Scoops and Iceberg's trail journal is located here.  

Kerry aka Treehugger - Kerry is in her early 50s and is helping with the suspected large crowds down south by doing a planned Flip Flop hike, starting in Daleville, VA and heading north to Katahdin, then coming down to Daleville and heading south to Springer (I think).  Flip Flops come in many variations and are only limited on your imagination and needs to get the trail done.  I myself are leaning towards doing a flip flop when it is our turn to hit the trail. Kerry is scheduled to start her hike on April  4th and is also scheduled to talk at the Flip Flop Kick Off celebration in Harpers Ferry on May 3rd.  Treehugger's trail journal can be found here.

Justin - Last but not least (the SOBOs are always last :) )  I don't know if Justin has a trail name yet, or if he is waiting for one to be gifted to him after he starts his hike.  Justin will be the last to start his hike as is common with south bounders.  Katahdin isn't easily hikeable until late May or June, so he can't start until he can climb that mountain.  His scheduled start date is July 7th.  Justin doesn't have a trail journal account and isn't really the journaling type (as he said to me), but he does hope to provide updates on his Facebook wall from time to time.  

So there you have it.  I hope to post updates as much as possible as these hikers make their way along the trail and stack up their miles.  

Good luck to each of you.  Have the time of your lives, but this is an adventure of a lifetime.  

One final comment from Clifford's Facebook Hike page.  "Sam sent word this morning that he was at Springer for breakfast. This means that he has officially started the Appalachian Trail!"

Sunday, March 1, 2015

I take each day as given...

In my current life, I don't use an alarm clock (usually), but wake when my body tells me to.  Or sometimes when my mind tells me to.  I lay there half awake and my mind starts the morning todo list.  Sometimes the listing wakes me fully and I roll out of bed and head upstairs to greet the day.  First stop is to the cookie jar, a good morning treat for the cat and dog who own us.  Next, is the coffee machine, then the computer.

I have always been an early riser, so my mornings are usually starting around sunrise, sometimes a little before, sometimes a little after.  Today, the windows were just starting to glow with a little brightness, but you could tell there were clouds up above you.  As the computer came to life and I logged on to the day, I saw that we had another winter advisory on the weather site my browser is bookmarked to.  More snow.  Yipee...

The last few winters have been fairly mild here near the bay in Maryland, but this year we were experiencing a number of named winter storms (they name winter storms now) that have traveled through our area, piling just a little more snow on the last few storms' snow.  It has all mostly fallen crisp and soft as the temperatures had stayed below freezing for a number of days in a row, but had turned to a hard crust with some near thaws and refreezes at night.  Another layer was arriving.

I worked a couple of hours on some museum task and looked outside to see more flakes falling.  Ginger came in to see if I was interested in taking her for a walk, so we headed out to our beloved nearby woods.  As I mentioned in my post about Schramm's Woods, this place has become magical for me.  I really enjoy walking on the trails in this small 11 acre plot.  It is always calming for me.

Ginger is looking for Mr Fox
We crunched through the snow along the trail and headed towards the campsite on Homeless Trail.  The flakes were ranging from small specks of snow to large clusters of flakes and was falling through a windless morning.  We continued on and did the Schramm Trail and found ourselves it the field edge where the foxes climb under the fence.  I stood still and just stared into the forest, looking for movement, but mostly listening to what I could hear.  Ginger checked for fox smell and wandered about.

There was some bird warbling in the woods.  I didn't recognize the species, but it was soothing.  Next a Blue Jay started calling from the tallest branch on the tallest tree along the fence line of the field.  He kept shouting his name over and over, waiting for another to answer and before long, one does.

Tallest branch of the tallest tree
We continue along on our walk.  Moving along the edge of the field to the top of Hill Trail. We head down the hill and start heading out of the woods.  As we exit the woods, I hear a Blue Jay (the same one? maybe another) shouting his name again and again.  I look to the tallest branch on the tallest tree in the area, but he is not there.  I try to find him in the surrounding trees, but he is elusive.

Heading up the hill
We follow the streets home that have already acquired a new coat of white and head inside, where it is warm and dry and I reflect on the walk.  I think we both enjoyed the walk, we always do.  It is March 1st and it is snowing, but that is ok.  I take each day as given and always try to find the good things that are part of every outside thing.