April 7, 2009
Ellie and I arrived home last
Wednesday and have been enjoying a bit of rest and trying to figure
out why the hot water heater won't stay on! There is at least two
feet of snow on the lawn and it is perfect for making snow dogs,
snow people, snow cats, snow bunnies, igloos or anything else that
comes to mind.
We traveled the Alaska Highway to
get back home and saw dozens of buffalo, one coyote that Ellie saw
and barked at, several caribou, a few moose, lots of snowbirds, an
eagle, ravens, and the usual plentiful squirrels. It took us about a
week to travel the five thousand miles to our front door.
I want to thank all of those
educators and students who took the initiative of participating in
Ellie's Walking Club. There were about a hundred schools involved so
many thousands of miles were walked. I am extremely proud of each
and every person for participating.
It would be wonderful if schools
would send in via email or regular mail the miles walked and who
walked the most miles at each grade level. If you could do this by
May 15, 2009, that would be perfect.
Ellie and I continue to walk every
day and I hope all of you do, too.
Sixfeet - now walking in Alaska
March 10, 2009
We made it! We are here! We are
done! We are in the heart of the South and we ain't whistling Dixie!
We have finished the Appalachian Trail! When we arrived at the
official end, which is on Springer Mountain, there is a plaque on a
rock that reads
"Appalachian National Scenic Trail.
Springer Mountain elevation 3782 feet
We met a group of college students
on spring break who have volunteered to work on the Trail to
maintain it and attend to some shelters. So we all got our pictures
But Ellie and I were not finished.
The Visitors Center is located another nine miles down the Trail,
where we arrived about 3:00pm. Though we had officially reached the
end of the Trail when we were on Springer Mountain, hikers usually
finish at the Visitors Center, so we hiked the last nine miles. That
part of our day, which was primarily downhill, took about five
hours, mostly because I kept stopping to tell everyone that this was
our last day!
When we came out onto a parking
lot, we still had one mile to go. There were some people there and
one of them asked where we had hiked from. So I told them that Ellie
and I had hiked from Maine and were finishing today and they all
burst into applause. This was very nice and, of course, made Ellie
bark. It was a happy moment.
I wanted to finished looking strong
and not be emotional, but that didn't happen. When we finally
reached the Visitors Center and last parking lot, everything
changed. I tossed down my walking stick, dropped to my knees,
engulfed Ellie with a big bear hug, and started to cry. I told her I
loved her very much and thanked her for staying with me for the
We will keep walking everyday and I
hope you will too.
March 6, 2009
have a problem. It used to be that most days we met one maybe two
people a day and had nice long conversations. Now suddenly we are
meeting a flood of north-bounders, so Ellie and I stop and stop and
stop and talk and talk and talk with just about everyone. The
problem is all this talking is slowing us down. I have to admit that
having people to talk with after so much time alone means that I am
the one doing most of the talking.
So tomorrow I will start trying to
be more disciplined. We'll be polite but try to keep it short and
The trail along the Tennessee/North
Carolina state lines and northern Georgia is more rugged then I
thought it would be. There are few flat places and we are almost
constantly going up or down. Flat places are almost like getting a
rest break, so when we don't find many flat places, we tire quickly
like we did in Maine.
It's getting warmer and the ground
is thawing, which means the trail is very muddy, so at the end of
the day we are muddy. Ack! I keep thinking about the fact that in
Alaska, where I come from, March is the best month for dog sledding.
The weather forecasters here are threatening us with temperatures in
the 70s and 80s over the next few days!
So, if you never hear from us
again, it's because Ellie and I melted into a puddle.
February 27, 2009
It's cloudy, snowing, and cold a
lot lately in the mountains even though we are very far south. (:(
But I am hopeful the snow will turn to rain soon as the temperatures
moderate. The problem is that, even though we are in the south, we
are at altitude, so that is why it's cold. Next day - it's raining!
A real toad-strangler and melting the snow, so hiking is easier
because the snow made it slippery.
Ellie is doing better at staying
close to me and spends more time off leash during the day. She is
really growing up and likely weighs about 70-75 pounds! Yikes! It's
like getting two dogs in one.
We met two more thru-hikers a few
days ago but now we meet no one except a few day-hikers so I guess
the initial parade of determined, early-bird, thru-hikers is over.
In a few days a new group will start passing by. I met local
day-hiker today who told me lots of people have already started out
of Georgia, so we will once again be meeting thru-hikers.
I have to admit the land here is
more rugged then I anticipated, so we try to hike a bit longer each
day to keep our miles up. We are tired, but Georgia is getting
February 17, 2009
Ellie and I got back on the trail
Thursday and are doing fine. We passed a sign Friday that said we
had 371 miles to go! I was sure we had more miles then that, so this
is a nice surprise. Ellie seems a bit more lively now and I think a
few days off the trail was good for both of us.
We are traveling along the state
line of North Carolina and Tennessee and move unknowingly between
those two states because the trail sometimes runs right along the
border. We are about 13 miles south of Elk Park, NC.
The mountains here are very rugged
and the views are beautiful. Happily, the trail is not too
difficult. We came across some barren mountain tops called balds. I
once read that these were areas cleared by farmers because they were
the only place in the mountains that was flat. But these areas are
so windy and dry that I don't see how anything could grow there.
Also, they are surrounded by very stubby trees.
The most exciting event came on
Friday when we encountered a man named Karl who was the first
thru-hiker we have met this year. He is hiking south to north.
Likely, we will start meeting others as the days go by.
February 7, 2009
Ellie and I are getting off the
Appalachian Trail for a little bit to take care of some business and
to let my bruised right foot rest & heal up.
We will be back in a very few days,
so please keep walking!
January 30, 2009
Ellie and I are in Damascus, so we
will make it out of Virginia before the day is over! Just three more
states and we will be finished.
Ellie is being a real trooper and
hikes even in the heavy rain but she doesn't really like it. Neither
do I but it's part of the game out here.
We are hiking through some
beautiful country where the rhododendrons(sp?) are way over my head
and often fold over the trail to form a green tunnel. Amazingly,
these tough plants manage to keep their leaves seemingly no matter
how cold it gets.
I would love to see the trail when
there are leaves on other trees in this part of the country. An
amazing number of creeks are low on water or dry so I assume this
may mean drought in this area this coming summer.
We came upon a deer carcass just
off the trail two days ago and, of course, Ellie needed to wander
over and check it out. It was not all that old and I think was a
bear's stash so, sadly for her, Ellie was not allowed to get an
unexpected feast. Besides, the bear could have been napping close
Some distance down the trail she
suddenly stopped, looked into the forest behind us and gave her low,
defensive bark. I'll never know, but I wonder if she heard the bear
come back for a snack. We were not about to investigate.
The final portion of the trail into
Damascus is sort of sidewalk, flat, level, straight, and no tree
roots or rocks to trip over.
January 20, 2009
The numbers for northbound
thru-hikers trekking from Georgia to Maine for this past season are
1250 people left Georgia as
delcared thru-hikers sometime during 2008 heading north
1150 remained after the first major drop-out point of Neels Gap
667 remained at the half-way point
148 finished the entire trail south to north.
I don't know what the numbers are
for southbound hikers since some of us are still hiking, but they
will be far smaller at every point because far fewer people hike
south then hike north. Usually, for every ten people hiking north
Maine, only one will be hiking south to Georgia.
Likely Ellie and I are the last
south-bounders on the trail, so when we finish, I should be able to
get southbound numbers.
It's been very cold here in
southwestern Virginia, not too far from Bland and Wytheville, where
several days the temperatures have gone close to zero. Up in the
mountains where the trail is located, it has been below zero in the
early morning but usually has risen to at least 28-34 degrees during
the day. That's not bad unless the wind starts blowing. Usually the
forest gives us some shelter, but even there we often still feel the
effects of the wind.
The trail is a bit hillier here
then in northern and central Virginia but still fairly easy. Some
places are rockier then expected.
We had one bad scare when we came
to Dismal Falls on Dismall Creek, which at the falls looks more like
a small river then a creek. The falls were partly frozen and the
edges of the creek were frozen to about five feet out from the
I had turned Ellie loose to run
around since no one was there.
She decided to walk out on the ice,
which was thin with fast flowing water underneath. Suddenly, I heard
a big crack, then a splash. I turned to see Ellie desperately
clinging to the surface ice by her front legs trying to claw her way
She kept breaking through the ice
as I kept trying to reach her. Everything seemed to be happening in
slow motion and it looked as though she was going to be swept away,
when suddenly her front claws gained traction on the ice and she got
She simply shook herself off and
went on checking out the area as though nothing had happened. Dogs
are very tough.
As planned, today, January 20,
2009, Ellie and I are staying at a motel in southwestern Virginia to
watch the televised inauguration of Barack Obama. It's a very
exciting day as we show ourselves and the world the kind of nation
we are capable of being.
Keep walking (but not on thin ice),
January 9, 2009
Ellie and I have gotten through
Shenandoah National Park, which was a fairly busy place during the
holiday season. We passed lots of hikers each day which was a
pleasant surprise. The trail in Shenandoah was mixed, some very flat
and wide, some rocky and following narrow ledges along
mountainsides. Overall, it was easy to make good time.
At shelters there were frequent
mentions of bear encounters, but we saw no wildlife other then
several blackcap chickadees, a lot of deer and the usual plentiful
supply of squirrels. It always amazes me how many squirrels the
forest can support.
We left the park and continued
along the trail through the Blue Ridge Parkway, which begins
immediately south of Shenandoah National Park. The views have been
spectacular, especially since all the leaves are gone, which allows
us to see long distances into far off valleys. One day I counted
eight ridges in the distance.
The temperatures vary a lot. Often
it's below freezing in the morning but warms up into the 50s by
mid-day. Much more pleasant then back in my home state of Alaska
where it was -37 degrees yesterday!
But yesterday our start was delayed
because of a three-hour blizzard! Thick flakes of snow fell fast and
the wind blew most of it sideways, creating a very cold and
unpleasant environment. Then, as quickly as it came, the storm
stopped, clouds gave way to a clear blue sky, temperatures soared to
45, snow began to melt and, most amazing of all, about six or seven
other day hikers appeared within minutes slogging along the trail.
We will finish the Blue Ridge
Parkway in a few days but we still will not be out of Virginia! On
and on it goes. I think we are less likely to suffer from the
Virginia Blues because we are southbound and know we are well over
half way through. If we were northbound and still had a huge amount
of the trail left to hike, it would be easy to get a little down.
Keep walking - everyday - just like
December 28, 2008
I hope everyone had as wonderful a
holiday as Ellie and I. There is so much to celebrate and be happy
We have now traveled roughly 1175
miles and have just under 1000 miles to go! This is a huge source of
motivation for me since we are now well over half way through our
journey and the number of miles we have to go will never be
expressed by four digits again.
One day we walked four miles along
the streets of Harper's Ferry, WV and by doing so ticked off another
state! Maryland was pretty scary because we had quite a few problems
with hunters, but that is behind us now.
Ellie and I walked seven miles on
the morning of December 23 which took us into a little bit of
Shenandoah National Park and then we got off the Trail for
Christmas. We went to Washington DC where I spent Christmas with my
friends Jon and Carol.
But, Ellie had an even more special
Christmas. She spent her time across the street from where I stayed
with Samantha and Chuck who have two dogs about Ellie's size. Every
day we all went to Dog Hill where the dogs were turned loose to play
for an hour with about five other dogs who also visited daily. To
have other dogs to play with was a wonderful treat for Ellie and to
see her run free was the best Christmas gift I could have had.
During the rest of each day she still had her hosts' two other dogs
to play with and a big, fenced in back yard to run in. This was
dog-heaven for Ellie.
During the afternoon of December 27
Ellie and I reluctantly left Washington and drove west where we
entered Shenandoah National Park and resumed our journey south.
We have completed ten states and
have only four left. Since Virginia has the most miles of any state,
we will be hiking here for about a month and will strive to avoid
the 'Virginia Blues,' an affliction that strikes many thru-hikers
because they feel as though they walk forever without getting out of
Keep walking everyday! Don't give
up rain or shine.
December 15, 2008
Ellie and I are officially over
half way through our hike. I know this because we came to a tall
sign along the trail that said this is the half way point. Actually,
because the trail has gotten a few miles longer since the sign was
erected, the half way point is a tad bit south but I took our
picture in front of it anyway.
Right now we are just inside
Maryland, having completed Pennsylvania much faster than I expected.
The trails in Pennsylvania were much better and less rocky than
expected. Since we have great trail-legs now, we have been able to
hike many miles each day. Our best so far is seventeen miles in a
When the big storm that struck New
England went through, Ellie and I got a room to wait it out. I chose
to do this because first it rained and rained and rained extremely
hard and soaked everything. Then the temperature dropped and
everything froze. Since that made the trail a sheet of ice and
difficult to walk on and we could not travel safely in such
conditions, it made sense to dry out and stay warm. It was nice to
get a long hot shower and sleep in a normal bed and Ellie enjoyed
sleeping on a nice carpeted floor.
Hunting season continues to make
our safety an issue. For awhile I thought we should just leave the
trail until the season was over. I thought it ended December 15 but
it turns out hunting season goes on in the upcoming states until the
first week of January. So we will continue our hike for a few days
more, dressed in orange and red, and see how it goes. No matter
what, we will leave the trail for a few days around Christmas before
resuming our trek to Georgia.
December 2, 2008
Rocksylvania usually appears on
maps as Pennsylvania, a fact most thru-hikers know. We never mention
this error to people in Pennsylvania, but we know they know.
Actually, the threat of terrible
rocks has proven to be not nearly so bad as predicted. So far the
state is a series of reasonably flat mountain ridges with soft
trails interrupted by patches of rock. Granted the rocks are sharp
and sometimes large and often plentiful, but we just slow down a bit
to save my ankles until we get to better tread.
The ridges are broken by gaps,
which are big "V" shaped openings in the ridges. Usually roads
and/or rivers flow through the gaps, sometimes requiring us to walk
across the road or walk over some long vehicle bridges with
There are some walkways that cross
roads that are only pedestrian walkways, the most famous is the
Million Dollar Footbridge that crosses Harrisburg Pike.
The most difficult gap was Lehigh
Gap, a challenging 1000 feet of steep boulders which left Ellie
puzzled as to how to move forward. At the top she was confronted
with boulders piled every which way that were far higher then she
We worked out a system together
that required her to trust me. I would stand on top of a boulder and
gently tug on her leash in the direction she should move. Then I let
the leash hang limp so Ellie could have a self-controlled jump and
she would leap to the next boulder. Then I would command her to stay
and she would wait motionless until I got in position for the next
move. We completed Lehigh Gap with no mishaps, though I think
Ellie's toenails are a bit shorter now.
For the last two weeks it's been
bear hunting season. Ellie's red pack makes her very visible and I
have a brilliant orange pack cover that makes me almost glow in the
dark. With the end of bear season came the immediate beginning of
deer season on December 1 where upon an estimated 900,000 people
entered the forests of Rocksylvania in pursuit of a deer!
Our colorful attire has kept us
safe and no hunting is allowed within 150 yards of the Appalachian
Trail. However, I spoke with two wildlife officers patrolling the
trail who told me they do not enforce this rule and that there was a
hunter in a tree right beside the trail a short distance from where
we stood. Between that bit of startling news and a rather dense
mountain fog, I decided Ellie and I would take a rest day and let
the frenzy die down a bit. But we will be sure to wear our colorful
attire until the season ends, just to be safe.
Thanksgiving happened during all
this excitement. For Ellie and me it was just another day on the
trail, but I was surprised and pleased to see an amazing number of
individuals, families and other groups who make it a tradition to do
a short hike on Thanksgiving. Not a bad idea.
November 21, 2008
We have made it to Pennsylvania! We
are in the small community of Delaware Water Gap where the trail
winds through the edge of town. There along the route was a hair
salon called Bo Tangles. They were able to take me right in, quickly
cut my scraggly hair, and send me right back out to continue to the
Post Office where I picked up my latest mailing. We hardly missed a
stride as we completed our errands in this very friendly, relaxed
Hiking through High Point State
Park and Delaware Water Gap Recreation Area before we reached here
was almost like walking through a city park, the trails were so
good. Parks are known for having better trails and these were no
exception. Some were even old logging roads. It was quite cold,
getting to 22 degrees at night and only up to 36 during the day.
Only one day was windy, so it wasn't as bad as it sounds. The snow
that fell over two nights always melted by noon each day.
There were lots of deer and
squirrels, which Ellie dearly wanted to chase, but she is on a leash
to prevent her from getting into trouble. A man showed up with his
black lab where we were camped, so we turned the dogs loose and they
played happily together for about an hour before the man left. It
was a real treat for Ellie, and it was great to watch her run off
some energy and spend time with another dog.
So now I get to see if the infamous
rocks of Pennsylvania are as bad as they are reported to be.
Keep walking - we are.
November 14, 2008
Good news! We are now trekking in
New York State and are very close to a small town called Fort
Montgomery, so we now have five states behind us.
Rain and ticks. That's what hiking
is about these past few days. At least it's rain and not snow again.
The water and mild temperatures bring out a massive number of ticks,
particularly in Connecticut. Ticks are tiny bugs that can carry
disease so I have to check Ellie frequently throughout the day to
get them off of her before they get embedded into her skin.
Despite the fact that she gets a
monthly dose of medication that is supposed to keep the ticks away,
one day I pulled over 40 of the little beasties out of her coat. So
I went to a grocery store and bought a good old flea and tick collar
and that seems to work much better.
Since I'm not covered in hair, it's
easy to know when I get a tick on me. I feel a little sensation like
when a mosquito lands on your skin and check right away. So far I
have found very few ticks on me and it has been easy to dispose of
those few that have made it onto my skin.
The trail continues to be very
level and we hike about two miles per hour, sometimes a bit faster.
Think NO SNOW in New York and keep
November 6, 2008
Ellie and I are moving along very
well and are near Cornwall Bridge, CT. We are celebrating the fact
that we have traveled somewhere around 750 miles, completed four
states and are working on the fifth.
Lately, some days we have covered
over 15 miles in a day! This is a function of more level trails and
the fact that my back is slowly, steadily healing. So, if you take
out the zero days (days when we don't travel, either because we are
taking a rest day or the weather is too nasty), we are now averaging
overall about 12 miles a day since the beginning of our journey. I
think we will steadily increase as we head south.
A few days ago there was a nasty
storm that dumped a beautiful layer of snow in the mountains and
winds were really high. Things were pretty exciting in the tent that
night but we suffered no catastrophes and the trees that blew down
thankfully missed us. The only difficulty for awhile was the large
amount of water and mud on the trail after the storm.
The snow mostly melted over a few
days and the trail is drying up nicely. There is no snow in
Connecticut, even in the mountains. The sun has been shining again
lately and so our spirits have risen along with the temperature.
One thing I've noticed lately is
that we cross roads very often and see many more vehicles. It is odd
to be walking through the forest, thinking you are in the
wilderness, happily lost in your thoughts and then suddenly there is
a road with cars whizzing past. But once we've cross the road, it's
amazingly easy to get back into a place in my mind where I can let
my thoughts be free or very focused, whatever I feel like doing.
That's the best part of being out here.
I expect to continue to gradually
increase our daily mileage over the next month but then we may slow
down a bit when we get into Pennsylvania where there are lots of
rocky trails that are hard to walk over. It's wonderful to be able
to spend all day walking in the forest with my little, four-legged
friend. Of course Ellie is used to going for day long walks so I'm
not sure what that means when we get home!
That's it for now. Please keep
walking! Knowing kids are walking too is what makes this worthwhile
and it's one of the things I think about while hiking.
October 27, 2008
A lot has happened since the last
update. Ellie and I spent a perfect day and night at my friends'
house - Joy and Michael in Lebanon, NH - before heading into
Vermont. We were picked from the trail, I got a much needed shower,
did laundry during the afternoon and even watched a little TV. When
Joy and Michael arrived home from work we had a perfect dinner and
conversation that involved sounds other then bark, bark, and ruff,
ruff. Later I got to sleep in a real bed, enjoyed a perfect
breakfast, and then we were transported back to the trail.
For the most part the trail has
gotten much easier in that there are fewer steep hills to climb and
the tree roots don't stick up so much.
We did come across some really
steep tallus - that's desk sized jagged rocks piled on top of one
another rising steeply up the side of a mountain - and we had to
descend this in a steady downpour. Ellie has learned to stop and
wait or me to climb down three or four steps and then follow me
down, stop and wait and repeat the process all the way to the
bottom. It makes it much safer since that way we don't end up trying
to step on the same foothold at the same time.
On October 23 Mother Nature opened
the door and Old Man Winter sauntered in and dumped wet, sticky snow
all over the place and let all the heat out. Yuck! The trail is
sticky with mud, fallen leaves, and snow and most mornings we wake
up to temperatures in the teens and twenties.
The forest is sometimes far less
dense then in Maine and it is a pleasure to be able to see into it.
The leaves are almost completely off the trees giving the forest a
beautiful, slender, lean look.
Yesterday we may have come across a
bear. I saw nothing but Ellie stopped in her track, raised her
hackles, threw her nose in the air and began sniffing. Then she
barked furiously and kept wanting to back up. She would not exhibit
that behavior if it were an approaching dog or person. Only Ellie
That's it for now. Keep walking for
Ellie's Walking Club. It helps inspire me to know kids are walking
too, and I need all the inspiration I can get!
October 13, 2008
We have made it to Hanover, New
Hampshire which is right on the Vermont/New Hampshire state line.
This means we have traveled about 442 miles so just about 20% of our
journey is complete AND two states are behind us.
Much has happened since the last
update. Ellie and I left Pinkham Visitor Center on a day the weather
deteriorated - again. Our route should have taken us into
mountainous terrain above tree-line but the wind up high was
40-60mph, the rock was covered with slick, frozen fog and snow was
forecasted. Travel was not advised.
There is a plaque on top of Mount
Washington, the highest of those mountains, which lists the names of
the 140 people known to have died on or near the mountain. Not
wanting to be number 141, I chose a different route. Ellie and I
hiked up Tuckerman Ravine Trail, which is the designated bad-weather
This was fine until we reached the
ridge where we had to climb above tree-line. The change in weather
was sudden and dramatic. The wind was fierce, hail pelted us, and
footing was extremely treacherous. Still not wanting to be number
141, we turned back and climbed down just a few yards to where the
weather was calm and camped for the night.
The next morning was spectacular.
Though still a bit windy the weather was warm and sunny. We traveled
with minimal gear and supplies, quickly crossing the next 11 miles
of rugged, mountainous, landscape in a day and a half.
The weather continued to be nice
but cool at night, often dropping below freezing. It's hard to climb
out of the sleeping bag when you know your fingers are going to hurt
from the cold, but that's what you have to do. You have to promise
yourself that you will get up at a certain time and then stay
motivated and not let yourself down. Each cold morning when I got up
stiff and cold, it always surprised me at how much easier then
expected it was to get up and start my day. I just didn't think
about how cold it was and I always felt good about myself for not
The mountains did have one final (I
hope) big challenge for Ellie and me, and that was Mount Moosilauke
where we had to climb almost straight up 2000 feet in less than a
mile. There were steps of wooden 4X4s, steps of rocks, sometimes no
steps, just roots to grab hold of to pull yourself up, irons
embedded in rocks to hang onto, slabs of rock to gingerly cross, and
lots of mud to slip around on. For me it was exhausting, for Ellie
it was just another day of fun on the trail.
Along this entire climb a beautiful
waterfall cascaded just a few feet to our right. Ellie decided she
was thirsty and started walking over to get a drink. This would have
resulted in her certain death. I screamed her name and yelled at her
to come. My tone startled her and thankfully she came back to me.
As predicted by people I have met
going north, once we got south of Glencliff, NH, the trail became
much more flat with fewer tree roots jutting up and far less rocky.
Now we head for Vermont and see
what the trail has to show us over there.
More later, Sixfeet
October 2, 2008
Time to celebrate again! We are at
Pinkham Visitor Center 21 miles south along the Appalachian Trail
and the dreaded Wildcat Ridge is now behind us. We are soaked and
exhausted but we're here.
This section of the trail started
with a deceptively easy gentle rise for two miles on a wide soft
trail and progress was swift. Then it rose steeply for two miles.
That's when the rain started, showers first, then almost a constant
downpour. We had on our raingear but the rain slowly found it's way
into everything and by evening we and our gear were soaked. We had
passed only two hikers all day.
Camping was difficult because the
ground was uneven, saturated, puddles everywhere, it got pretty
cool, and rain fell hard all night.
We signed the trail register at
Carter Notch Hut the next day, noting our itinerary, and set out for
Wildcat Ridge. There are five peaks along this stretch, all over
four thousand feet. They are cleverly named Peak A, B, C, D, and E.
To reach Peak A, we slogged up through a soggy, steep, rocky trail
that rose 1000 feet in less then a mile.
At the summit we encountered gusts
over 25 mph, causing the rain to seep further into my clothing and
coating my glasses with mist. Ellie was thrilled to be on top and
started heading downhill. Over the next few miles we went up and
down, up and down, up and down. Thankfully, peaks B, C, D, and E
were not nearly so difficult.
I was concerned about how wet and
cold we were getting because the most difficult part of all lay
ahead. From the summit of Peak E over the next two miles we had to
drop steeply 2500 feet, which means pretty much straight down. The
rain was torrential, the wind was gusting, Ellie and I were both
The trail was now a narrow six-inch
deep trough of water sweeping mud, gravel, and rocks along making
footing very treacherous. We slipped, skidded, and slid downward.
Ellie was incredible. I could see
she was cold and wet. Twice she stopped and looked at me as if to
ask, "Can we find someplace else to go where it's easier?"
I just said, "Let's go, Ellie," and
off she would go. She inspired me.
I wanted to stop too but the thick,
stubby, evergreen forest that lines the trail is so dense it's
nearly impossible to enter, and of course camping on a rocky 45
degree incline is pretty tough.
So we persisted. At long last we
reached level ground and continued along the final two miles. Every
stream crossing was at flood stage and every bridge was either under
water or wrecked. We carefully crossed and kept walking until at
last we emerged on Highway 16, crossed the road and reached safety.
We passed no one all day long.
Wildcat Ridge is considered by many
to be the most difficult part of the entire Appalachian Trail. I
really hope that's true. So far it is.
More later, Six Feet
September 29, 2008
Ellie and I have arrived in Gorham,
New Hampshire, having trekked about 298 miles of our journey. It
also means we have finally completed our first state and Maine is
now behind us!
The famous Mahoosuc Notch was more
fun and less terrifying then I had been led to believe. In the Notch
lay huge, angled slabs of rock, often bigger then cars that you have
to negotiate. They sometimes form passage ways and you have to crawl
through these tunnels on your hand and knees. I decided to look at
it as fun and thoroughly enjoyed the three hours it took to scramble
over, under, and around the boulders.
We had good weather for awhile but
then a hurricane went up the coast of Maine and dropped enough rain
to cause the weather people to warn of flash flooding. Heavy rain
can cause substantial amounts of water to overflow stream beds,
making it treacherous to cross and torrents of water can accumulate
with shocking speed and rush down the trail, sweeping everything
This was not nearly so scary as the
day I saw a wolf walking along about 100 yards behind us on a wide
stretch of trail. Ellie was running free and I am sure it was
stalking her. Since it was so far away and Ellie was busy sniffing a
nearby log, she never saw the wolf. When I saw it, the wolf stopped
and turned so its left side was toward us. I took two steps towards
the wolf and it quickly disappeared into the forest. I kept Ellie on
a leash for some time after that.
Later I would learn that another
dog disappeared in that same area about two weeks ago, though I have
no way of knowing if this wolf was in any way connected with that
The leaves are brilliant red,
yellow, and orange and just when I think they couldn't possible turn
any brighter, the next morning they do.
This week we start hiking through
portions of the White Mountains which promises to be one of the most
challenging parts of the journey because the mountains are very
steep and high.
More later, Six Feet
September 22, 2008
Ellie and I are in Andover, Maine
now, having completed about 249 miles of the Appalachian Trail. We
are still averaging about 10 miles a day, which is not bad
considering how much serious up and down there is in Maine. Overall,
Maine is considered to be the most difficult state along the
The weather continues to be
spectacular and we celebrate this good fortune every day. The leaves
are beginning to turn colors now, mostly gold, yellow, and red and I
am looking forward to hiking through some colorful country over the
next couple of weeks.
Twice since we started I've hurt my
back carrying a backpack through rough terrain so because of that I
have had to make some adjustments to how we are doing this journey,
at least temporarily.
Instead of carrying all the weight
through the entire distance from one town to the next, I have made
arrangements at places where the trail and roads intersect to access
our food. This really reduces the weight I carry since food is a big
part of the total pack weight.
I am going to keep doing this until
we are out of steep terrain and my back feels better. It's not
something I wanted to do but sometimes you just have to accept
change in order to accomplish a goal.
Though most thru-hikers carry all
of their pack, the system of having some weight shuttled is fairly
common. There are even a surprising number of people hiking the
trail who carry almost no weight and frequently get shuttled to
hostels at night and then back to the trail in the morning. This is
a service provided by many hostels that cater to hikers and is
referred to as "slack packing".
Ellie has become a very good trail
dog and, though she is still very happy when we meet another person,
she has learned to stay much calmer than before. Now we are working
on her not going ballistic when we meet another dog on the trail.
One day we came to a place where a
narrow, dirt, logging road crossed the trail and there hanging in a
tree was a large, black plastic bag. Ellie saw it, raised her
hackles, and barked at it furiously as she slinked around it. Turned
out a man had driven to this spot and hung his own food resupply. We
met him about two miles later walking north as we walked south. He
said he had done this food-hanging quite a bit and no one ever
bothered it. People know someone is depending on it. He thought it
was pretty funny that Ellie had barked at his food bag.
More later, Six Feet
September 14, 2008
Ellie and I are in Stratton, Maine
which is about 185 miles from Katahdin. We continue to have good
fortune. The many rivers and streams that we had to cross (there are
56 waterways in Maine that require crossing) are usually about two
feet deep, some with swift current and something to be reckoned
with, but because there has been so little rain all the waterways
were no deeper then 6-10 inches. Whew! I've been very concerned
about them and am relieved to have most of the waterways behind us.
Ellie has become a champion waterway crosser!
It's raining today and we are
resting. My feet now look much more like feet instead of two loaves
of bread and they hurt a lot less. Ellie ate part of a bog one day
which gave her an intestinal infection called giarrdiosis from an
organism called giarrdia. She is getting medication for this and is
responding very nicely and feeling much better then she did a few
Most of these bogs are thick layers
of moss on top of thick one to two feet of mud and apparently smell
pretty good to a dog. The problem is that the mud can be sitting on
two to four feet of water that you cannot see. The bogs are crossed
by walking over split log walkways about six to twelve inches wide.
One day Ellie fell off the log and into the bog and sank to her
belly, unable to extract herself. I managed to haul her out and had
the joy of walking with a very stinky dog for the rest of the day.
Then it was my turn to fall in, but
only my left leg went in just past my knee. Thankfully, I was able
to drop to my right knee on the log, grab the log with both hands
and get my leg out of the bog. I tested the depth with my walking
stick but was unable to find the bottom of that particular spot. I
heard about one man who fell in completely and was saved by his pack
getting hung up on the log. After he got out, he decided to leave
the Appalachian Trail.
We have the famous last few miles
of the trail in Maine yet to cross and we will do this only when it
is not raining. If we try to cross the next section in rain the
rocks get too slick and people get hurt a lot. So Ellie and I will
take out time, not get hurt, and enjoy this journey.
I hope you all are walking. One of
the reasons I am doing this trek during this time of year is to
include as many students as possible. Keep walking.
Ellie and Pam - aka Six Feet
September 4, 2008:
Here's the latest from Pam and Ellie on the Appalachian Trail.
First, we are in Monson, Maine at the end of the 100-mile
Wilderness. This means we have completed a total of about 116 or so
miles of the Appalachian Trail.
We entered the Wilderness August 26
after climbing Katahdin and hiking to Abol Bridge. The Wilderness
terrain is filled with rocks, mud, and endless tree roots, for which
the Maine portion of the Trail is known. On the afternoon of August
27 I managed to mis-step on a tree root and turn my left ankle
inward 90 degrees and have been hobbling along ever since. But - no
pain, no gain. I wonder who thought up that expression?
One morning Ellie and I started out
first from a campsite and down the trail towards us lumbered a
mother black bear and her cub. I think they saw us before we saw
them and they charged off into the forest. The cub climbed a tree
while the mother peered through the thick, dense brush and watched
us from a distance of about 100 feet. I had my bear spray out and
was shaking pretty badly from fear but the cub dropped down and they
both headed off into the forest. The next hiker behind me a distance
heard the cub bawling in the tree but did not see them. Ellie was
remarkably well behaved and stood on the trail barking.
The rest of our days were spent
climbing up and down steep mountains, walking over split log walk
ways that shelter delicate bogs, wading through mud where there are
no walk ways, stumbling over tree roots and enjoying unbelievably
We are staying in Monson for a few
days until I get the swelling in my feet under control. It's very
difficult to be disciplined about resting because the weather is so
perfect. But it's better to rest now then carry on with bad feet.
Part of the A.T. experience is to
select a trail name. So Ellie and I are known as Six Feet, because
Ellie has four feet and I have two.
Next update in a week or so.
Remember to keep walking! -- Six Feet
August 24, 2008:
There is much to celebrate! Ellie &
I traveled in my van 5917 miles from Alaska to Maine, detouring to
visit three schools in TN along the way.
At 6:30 am 8/24/2008 I started hiking
towards Mt. Katahdin with two friends, Dorothy Hall-Riddle & Tracy
Weber. We hiked together for several miles and then Dorothy & Tracy
turned back to deliver my camp equipment to where I would spend the
night. Dorothy's husband, Jeff Riddle, arranged for me to get a much
coveted campsite in Baxter [State] Park.
I continued towards the summit of
Mt. Katahdin, which is 5280' Baxter Peak and is the northern
terminus of the A.T. There were a lot of roots and rocks
and bouldering and my legs got pretty tired. In several places, you
have to grab hold of iron handles imbedded in rock to get over some
huge boulders. The entire 11.7 miles of hiking was mostly very
strenuous and it took me a respectable 10.5 hours to complete. The weather was spectacular, blue
sky, breezy, moderate temperatures in the 60s. Climbing this mountain means that I
have completed one of the most difficult parts of the entire A.T.
Tomorrow I hike out of Baxter State
Park and Ellie will join me to begin the rest of the hike. Dogs are
not allowed in Baxter State Park, so Ellie has been cared for by
Barbara Hall and her friend Everett Parker who will deliver her to
It's a good beginning and such good
fortune is to be celebrated. I'll send updates whenever I get
into a town and can send an email. Next Ellie and I will hike the "100
mile wilderness" to Monson, Maine.
I hope many of you reading this
will participate in my journey by joining
Ellie's Walking Club and walk as many miles as you can.
More as soon as I can. -- Pam