Gimmee Shelter

Generally speaking, there are 3 options on the AT when it comes time to stop walking for the day.  You can pitch your tent, stay in a trail shelter or go off trail and book a motel room.  In the last 3 days I have sampled all of these major food groups. 

Let’s  review.  Two days ago I walked 19 miles in continuous rain, periodically accompanied by thunder and lightening.  When I got to Rock Gap shelter it was still raining so I opted for staying in a trail shelter to avoid getting my gear wet while I was setting up.  Now AT trail shelters are rustic affairs –  basically wooden lean-tos.  Their claim to fame is that they have permanent residents – rodents (they like the food that hikers bring).  Ignoring this fact of shelter life, I bedded down for the night.   Somewhere around midnight, fast asleep, I was dreaming that someone was pulling or lifting me up.  Was I dreaming that I was a Hare Krishna and was being yanked into heaven by my hair knot? No, I don’t have enough hair for that, and when I abruptly woke from the dream I saw that a large rat, one that any maze running psychologist would be proud of, was actually trying to pull my wool hat off my head. I slapped at him with my pillow and he wandered over to my sleeping companion to my right. Now, did I remain vigilant the rest of the night for his return? Facing the alternatives I just went back to sleep.  In the morning I still had my hat so …  

Flash forward to the following day.  This time it snowed all day with wind gusts and it was cold with a low predicted of about 23° F.  As I finished off another 19 miles day I pulled into the aptly named Cold Spring shelter. A hiker (trail name “cur dog”), was very friendly and invited me to share the shelter. Mindful of what had happened the night before, I politely declined and set up my tent in high winds and still driving snow.  It didn’t stop till early the next morning and I awoke to snow drifts surrounding my tent.  It was so cold that my water bottles had partially frozen.  My boots also had frozen shoe laces. But, after digging out the tent and packing up I was rewarded with a glorious day for hiking – still windy but also partly sunny with spectacular views of the mountains.

Finally, at the end of that day of hiking – a 12 mile day – I booked a room at the Nantahala Outdoor Center. I showered, washed my clothes and had real food in a restaurant. It felt completely decadent. 

There you have it – 3 days, 3 different types of shelters.  

I wonder what tomorrow will bring?

Preventive Medicine

In a few days, my wife and I will leave Wisconsin for the drive to Georgia and the start of my AT thru-hike.  This has been a long time in the planning.  I was so serious about this being high on my “list” (I despise the term “bucket list” so I refuse to call my bucket list anything other than a list) that it was a major factor in retiring when I did.  I shocked the office I managed when I announced my retirement but really floored them when I explained why – i.e., I wanted to have time to hike the Appalachian Trail as well as other long distance trails.  For many, the reaction initially was, “well, I wonder what the real reason is for him leaving?”  Eventually, they were convinced that, no, he really means this, there aren’t juicy office politics at play.  They were probably disappointed to realize this. Continue reading “Preventive Medicine”

Adventures in Cuy Farming

As parents, we strive to keep our kids safe and prevent them from doing stupid things that might cause them harm.  In part, this is accomplished, we naively think, by serving as positive role models as we sagely impart various important parenting rules.  We also, and this is part of what I call the “parenting paradox”, strive to prevent them from ever finding out about all the stupid things we did when we were their age. Continue reading “Adventures in Cuy Farming”

Onto Thin Ice: A personal account of my trip onto Green Bay

DISCLAIMER:  This entry has precious little to do with hiking, trekking or mountaineering

By most standards used to judge the average American, I think I could reasonably be categorized as someone willing to take on a certain level of risk when in the outdoors.  I have done multi-pitch rock climbs.  I’ve walked over snow bridges spanning man eating crevasses while climbing Mt. Rainier.  I’ve practiced ice climbing in the Himalayas.  More to the point, I’ve been on several expedition style climbing trips where I haven’t changed my underwear for 2 weeks at a stretch (kids, please don’t try this at home). Continue reading “Onto Thin Ice: A personal account of my trip onto Green Bay”

Romancing the Avenue of the Volcanoes


How I learned to stop worrying and love diacritics


“Kevin, it is NOT pronounced “anos” it is “años!”  Our Spanish tutor, let’s call him Freddy, barked this at me during one of our lessons.  He seemed, well, a bit panicky.  My wife, however, was simply amused.  We were in the midst of spending a month in Ecuador and were trying to improve our Spanish.  In an effort to keep things simple, I decided on my own to ignore those little squiggly things that other languages like to throw on top of their words.  Officially, these squiggles are referred to as “diacritics”.  Freddy did not like my approach.  Continue reading “Romancing the Avenue of the Volcanoes”

Lost in Translation


Both of my daughters recently told me that they plan on hiking a segment of the Appalachian Trail with me when I attempt my thru hike later this year.  One will catch up with me for a section in Virginia and the other will join me at some point in New England.  Now in their early 20s, both of them have a deep and abiding love of the outdoors and of hiking and camping.  Most people would consider this a very positive character trait.  Not discounting the fact that they participated in Girl Scouts for 10+ years, I’ve decided to take some credit for it myself. Continue reading “Lost in Translation”

Hunger Game


While the internet is certainly not an authoritative source of information, I recently averaged estimates from multiple sites for what a hiker on an Appalachian Trail thru hike should expect to burn in calories.  This turned out to be about 500 calories per hour of hiking.  Now for the higher math – for my thru hike I figure on being out on the actual trail for 135 days doing about 10 hours per day of hiking.  I will also be burning some calories for the remaining 14 hours in each day (figure another 1150 calories).  That ends up being roughly 830,000 calories to get me from Springer to Katahdin.  I don’t know about you, but to me, that seems like a lot of frickin’ calories to put down your pie hole. Continue reading “Hunger Game”