Thursday, November 19, 2009

A Rocket Trip On The Appalachian Trail

Since finishing the AT, I've had some time to put together a video of my thru-hike. I could never capture the true experience of my trip in a video but I hope I've come close. Thanks for following!

A Rocket Trip On The Appalachian Trail


Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Mount Katahdin, ME

Just in time for sunrise

On Saturday, September 5th, we woke up at 2 30 am in Baxter State Park to a clear, starry sky and a full moon. We packed up our gear and were headed up the trail by 3 15 am. A sign at the trail head said to plan for at least 7 - 10 hour round trip to the summit and back. We had 5.2 miles standing between us and completing the 2178.3 mile journey. The first couple of miles were below treeline and relatively easy. After an hour of hiking we were exposed, above treeline. The moon was like a spotlight reflecting against the mountain and the hundreds of lakes below. We turned off our headlamps and began the steep, hand over hand climb up to the 'gateway', the edge of the mountaintop plateau.

Finished the Appalachian Trail

After 30 minutes of reaching the timberline we were at The Gateway. Two more miles to go and less than an hour before sunrise. We rushed across the rocky plateau and up to the final ridge then we saw it, the infamous Katahdin summit sign silhouetted by a bright red sky. It was now 5 45 am, 12 minutes until sunrise, and we had reached the summit. The moon was sinking behind us into a shadowed valley. Cameras were out and beers in hand.

The magnitude of this trip and the fact that the trip is over has not sunk in. Maybe it never will but that's not important. What is important is that I finished the Trail and the experience will stay with me forever.


Appalachian Treadway 5

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Monson, ME

I'm on the southern edge of the 100 mile wilderness, the final stretch before Mount Katahdin. I've hiked over 2000 miles and have only 115 miles to go - it feels great! Daddy Long Legs caught up to me in Stratton, ME a few days ago and we've been hiking together, along with Feed Bag, ever since (no news from Bonesey). We expect to summit on September 5 or 6, depending on weather. Yesterday, the three of us hiked over 35 miles to get to Monson, ME before heavy rains hit the area. We got into town at 11 30 pm and claimed floor and couch space at Shaw's Lodging. We awoke to an all you can eat breakfast and copious amounts of coffee. Its cold, windy and rainy but we are nice and dry at the Lake Shore House. We'll head out tomorrow and probably won't speak to anyone back home for the next week due to the remoteness of this last section. If all goes to plan, Nicole will arrive at Baxter State Park, at the base of Mount Katahdin, on Saturday and whisk me away. I should be in Maryland by next Monday night. As happy as I am to be nearing the end, the reality of not hiking is slowing setting in and its a little sad/scary. Well, before I get ahead of myself, we have a few more miles to go so wish us luck and I'll talk to everyone soon!


Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Andover, ME

Hi everyone,
I made it through New Hampshire and the White Mountains. The Whites were absolutely amazing and I had great weather the entire time. There was a lot of alpine hiking (above tree line) and I had great views from Mount Washington. I was able to stay in huts most of the time where they allow hikers to do 'work for stay' in exchange for lodging and leftovers. A moose visited our campsite one night at 4 30 am and was only 10 feet away from where we were cowboy camping. I crossed into Maine yesterday and so far the terrain has been very difficult. With only 257 miles to go, I hope to be to Mount Katahdin by Labor Day. This means averaging 18 miles a day from here on out which isn't impossible but may be difficult. Its hard to believe I'm so close to finishing this trip. Its been amazing so far and I'm hoping Maine will live up to its reputation. I'm exhausted and have a big day tomorrow so I'm off to bed. Talk to everyone soon.


Sunday, August 2, 2009

Manchester, VT

I left off in CT and two weeks later I've made it through MA and am part way through VT. Last weekend I met up with some past hiking partners, Bonesey, Daddy Long Legs and Wheeler. After taking a few unplanned zero days at Bonesey's house in CT, we decided to rent an Enterprise cargo van, fill it with 15 thru hikers and drive 3 hours to a hiker bash (put on by Rainman and Ahab) in VT for 3 days. It was great! Tons of food, cliff jumping in the quarry and ALOT (63) of stinky hikers all in Rainman's parents home.

We finally got out of VT and back to CT to continue hiking and made decent time, despite the relentless rain and diminishing trail conditions. I try not to complain while I'm out here but this is my blog so I'm going to rant for a minute about the rain. The past week has been full of torrential down pours which have flooded the trail and made walking a nightmare. The trail is literally a flowing stream in many sections of MA and VT (and probably NH and ME) and when its not raining the trail is a mud bog. Waterproofing does nothing for rain of this magnitude. The water seeps through your pack and soaks most of your gear. We've done a pretty good job drying our gear out but lately everything is either soaking wet or damp. The good news is that we're managing to keep high spirits. I think most people realize that they are out here by choice and with several great hostels in the northeast its not hard to get out of the weather. Currently I'm at one of those great hostels, The Green Mountain House, and it is by far my favorite so far on the trail. Imagine a fully stocked home with all the amenities and a bunch of hikers and that's The Green Mountain House Hostel. We'll be back on trail tomorrow and plan to be in Rutland, VT by Wednesday and then Hanover, NH by next Monday. Only 538 miles to go! Pray for nice weather in the NE! Take it easy.


Thursday, July 16, 2009

Kent, CT

Hello from CT! Yesterday was a landmark day for several reasons. I made it through NY state and crossed the two thirds mark, only 722.4 miles to go! I have decided to slow down a bit so that I can meet up with Bonesey at his parents place in CT in a few days. Bonesey and I hiked together from the Shenandoah's to Harper's Ferry, WV. It will be nice to have a hiking partner again, hopefully for the rest of the way to Mt. Katahdin. Yesterday I did my first 'slackpack', which means you arrange for someone such as an outfitter to pick up your backpack and take it to your destination. All I carried yesterday was food and water and it made all the difference. It felt like I was on a leisurely walk in the woods. Do I feel guilty? Not really. It felt great to mix things up a bit especially since I was mentally drained after hiking through NY state. I'm taking a zero day today in Kent, CT with Kiwi, Couscous, Stud the Dud and August Rush. I hope everyone is doing well. Rocket

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Bear Mountain, NY

I'm part way through NY and not much has changed since my last post. Nicole has come for a short visit and we are just lounging around. Here are a few photos from Harper's Ferry, WV to Bear Mtn, NY. Take it easy everyone.


Tuesday, July 7, 2009

New Jersey

Wow, long break between posts and a lot has happened. I left Harper's Ferry, WV on July 24 and have walked through West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania and am now half way through New Jersey. Maryland and southern PA were great, flat and easy. Northern PA lived up to its reputation for rocky trails. I never knew there could be so much variation in 'rocky terrain'. My feet were touching rock for most of this section and these are not nice, flat rocks. These rocks range from small and pointy to large boulders that require both hands to climb up and over. New Jersey has not shown much relief to the rocks and I suspect New York will be no different. I've decided to take a zero day today here at the "Mayor's House" in Unionville, NY since I've averaged 25 miles a day since leaving Harper's Ferry, WV and have had no breaks. I'm headed for Fort Montgomery, NY where Nicole will meet me on Friday. After that I hope to be non stop all the way to VT, NH and then ME! I am really looking forward to getting into more rugged terrain. I hope to update before then but if not, everyone take care and thanks for all the support!


Monday, June 15, 2009

Halfway, well almost

I made it to Harpers Ferry, WV, the psychological halfway point for most thru-hikers. The actual halfway point is about 75 miles north in PA but because Harpers Ferry is home to the Appalachian Trail Conservancy headquarters and is the closest large town near the true halfway point, it is most often celebrated as a major milestone. The AT passes next to the beautiful, historic downtown Harpers Ferry. Nicole picked me up from there on Saturday afternoon for my much anticipated week off! I'm getting back on the trail June 23 and hope to meet up with some hikers I left behind early in the trip.
In the past week I have hiked 160 miles completing the entire Shenandoah National Park in 4.5 days. I left Waynesboro, VA last Sunday where I met a great group of people. We would go on to hike all the way into Harpers Ferry together. I saw the most wildlife in the Shenandoah's then anywhere else. Here's a list: tons of deer, 1 bear, timber rattlesnake, 5 black snakes, 2 copperheads, and 1 mountain lion. A group I was hiking on and off with was Wheeler and his chocolate lab Winston, Rainman and Ahab, they saw 7 bears in one day in the park! The most exciting adventure in the Shenandoah's was the attempt at a 24 hour hike. Bonesey, Wampus Cat, Fat Kid, Huck Finn and myself got off to an early start that morning but because there are these stores/restaurants located throughout the park we became easily distracted by long lunches so by 8pm we had only walked about 22 miles. We ate dinner (smores) and started the night hike by 9pm. There was a full moon that night but was too low on the horizon so headlamps were required. Within 15 minutes of our hike we heard a bear grunting in the woods to our right. As the night grew darker more eyes began to appear in the woods, mostly deer but we did get a quick glimpse of a mountain lion before it disappeared into the woods. By 1am we found ourselves lying on Skyline Drive staring at the stars and dreading the next few miles. We finally got moving again, Bonesey was now leading the group. He had darted ahead about 20 yards ahead of us when we all of sudden heard a loud and steady hsssssssssss and then saw Bonesey jump off to the side of the trail. I was in the back of the group and was trying to figure out what was going on up ahead of me. As I got along side the group I looked to the spot where four other headlamps were shining and saw a very angry rattlesnake. It was coiled up but still facing Bonesey. It was rattling so fast that it sounded like a steady hssssssssss. Apparently, Bonesey accidentally stabbed it with his trekking pole but managed to escape without injury. We set up camp shortly after and were sound asleep on a ridge by 2 30am.
Shortly after leaving the Shenandoah's, Bonesey and I had a nice surprise from a friend of mine from graduate school at UNCW, Clay Morris. Clay lives about 10 minutes from the trail and earlier in my trip he had offered to pick me up when I got close to his home. Bonesey and I heard t-storms and flash floods were expected in the area so I gave him a call and before we knew it we were sitting down to a pork roast dinner! It was great to catch up with Clay and spend time with his wife and kids, thanks again Clay!
So now I have a little over a week to rest up for the last half of the AT which I here is the best half. If anyone needs me I will be by the pool, seriously, Nicole has a pool at her house!


Friday, June 5, 2009

Waynesboro, VA

Rain rain go away come back another day! Today's hike into Waynesboro, VA was wet, cold and much tougher than a ridge runner led us to believe. For the past few days thunderstorms have hit literally a mile before I get to camp and today, ahh today! It rained HARD from 7am until 2:30pm. The section I hiked today was very rocky and when water meets rock, Rocket meets rock. I'm very happy to be at the Lutheran Church Hostel for the evening. I start the Shenandoah National Park tomorrow and the weather is suppose to be nice for the next few days so whoopie!
I really enjoyed hiking with Nicole in the early part of the week. It was a much needed break to hiking alone all day, everyday which I actually prefer but Nicole is exceptional company. I'm running into a lot of people that I met at Trail Days and I may have found a couple that are hiking at my pace, Blue Sky and Greenlite. Greenlite and I competed in a pancake eating contest first thing when getting into town today. Neither of us came close to the record of 28 (I won't even say how few we ate). I may skip dinner tonight but unlikely. Speaking of which, I better find some food in this town before our 10pm curfew. Take care!


Saturday, May 30, 2009

Lexington, VA

Hi all,
I'm here in Lexington, VA with Nicole and my parents taking a day off from the trail. I've been treated to several great meals and even a massage. Nicole is going to hike with me for the next couple of days through central VA. She's brought me a new pair of shoes which are much needed after 740 miles in my old pair. My pack weight has dropped signficantly since the warm weather has hit, despite increasing my food supply. I've sent my cold weather gear, camp shoes and other misc items home. My pack weighs about 20-23 pounds with food and water and I'm able to hike pretty fast. However, I'm planning to slow my pace (15-20 miles) after averaging over 25 miles a day since getting to VA. The 10-12 hour days are taking their toll, and although I'm enjoying putting back a lot of miles, I am beginning to feel it in my feet. In addtion to the past few days of consistent downpours, my feet are in desperate need of rest. I'm looking forward to getting to the Shenandoah's in about a week and then Harper's Ferry, WV, the unofficial halfway point! I've come over a third of the way now and am still feeling pretty good. I'm still meeting a lot of new people on the trail but hope to see some of my 'Slippery Slopers' soon. Take care everyone.


Appalachian Treadway 2

Thursday, May 28, 2009

I'm still alive

Hi everyone. Its been awhile since my last post but all is still well out here. Since entering VA (after Damascus and Trail Days - look for a guy wearing green childrens swim goggles!). I've been doing 25 mile days and have done a couple 30 + mile days. I'm getting tired of hiking ALL day so I'm going to slow it down a bit. Currently, I'm in Daleville, VA at mile 718.6 out of 2175 miles so that's about 1/3 of the way! Southwest VA was beautiful! I did not want to leave there but the miles kept carrying me northbound. So far I've seen 2 bears, some turkey, deer everyday and other loads of other 'forest creatures'. It's been raining for a few days straight now, so hard at times that there's no need for a rain jacket. I've been soaked to the bone for 3 days and my feet are like raisins but are finally drying out. I'm very excited for this weekend because my parents and Nicole are coming to see me again! I hope all is well with everyone. I'll update again soon!


Saturday, May 16, 2009

Damascus, VA

I'm now in Damascus, VA, have been since Thursday evening. Trail Days is going on right now and this town caters to thru-hikers! I'm staying at a hostel called 'The Place' which is a ran by a Methodist Church. The Baptist Church next door is where I spend most of my time though and I'll tell you why. They provide free hot showers out of a disaster relief trailer, free internet, free coffee, a free dinner, free snacks and hiker goody bags, and the best part, free medical check ups. They did a complete blood work up, body fat test and advice to keeping my body fat higher than what it was at 12 %, foot care (a guy actually cleaned my feet and then gave me free socks) and then a consoltation with a doctor! Did I mention this was all FREE! It is absolutely amazing what this church does for hikers and bikers every single year so thanks to the Baptist Church of Damascus, VA! Today the town will have a hiker parade and I've heard that the locals throw water balloons and squirt you with water guns. Then there is the talent show and maybe music again tonight. I'm currently hanging out with the 'Slippery Slope' crew. I'm planning to crawl out of this town either tonight or tomorrow, or until they kick me out.


P.S. Mom and Dad, I've met a lot of people that loved your trail magic and said thank you so much! Oh! And I saw my first bear and cub on Thursday! I have a video so I'll upload it when I can.

Sunday, May 10, 2009


Since hanging out in Boone, NC for a couple of days I have found time to add some photos and some more videos from the past few weeks. Enjoy!


Saturday, May 9, 2009

Roan Mountain, NC

I just got to Roan Mountain, NC early this morning where my parents and brother Josh and cousin Casey were waiting for me. I'm taking a couple days off to hang out with them in Boone, NC then Nicole (my girlfriend) arrives on Sunday to hike with me for a view days! The past week has been pretty great, except for the rain and thunderstorms. The trail has been pretty rough going, very wet and soggy. Over the past week I get soaked to the bone in the morning then the sun usually dries me out by afternoon. I've got stuck on a couple balds and high ridges during some storms and it is no fun. Aside from the strong, bitter cold winds I was pretty nervous being so exposed to the elements. Its pretty amazing how fast the weather can change out here.

I stayed in Hot Springs, NC last weekend and actually made in time to the French Broad River Music Festival. I did about 45 miles in 2 days but I made it in time for the last night of the festival - awesome time. I've met a lot of great people so far and am looking forward to seeing everyone again in Damascus,VA next weekend for Trail Days. I've hit some big mental marks in the past week too. I past the 300 mile mark, had my two longest days at 27 and 26 miles, back to back, and next week I'll be in VA! My legs and ankles are feeling great but I plan to take my time getting to Damascus, VA...well, I may decide to partake in one of the many AT challenges. The next one coming up is about a 30 mile hike from Vandeventer Shelter, TN to Damascus, VA in one day.

I've had some people ask about my trail name 'Rocket' so here it is...I started the trail sick and was pretty congested. Instead of constantly blowing my nose in my handkerchief I would blow snot rockets. After my cold went away mountain allergies hit me and so I again was constantly dealing with a runny nose and so came my name, given to me by my friend Transition.


Friday, May 1, 2009

Standing Bear Farm, TN

I'm at Standing Bear Farm hostel today where I stopped for a frozen pizza. I'm headed for Max Patch this afternoon and then on into Hot Springs, NC by Sunday. This is the first chance I've had to use the internet since my last post so I'll quickly catch you up. I've basically gone from Franklin to the Nantahala Outdoor Center (very tough section) to Fontana Dam, and into the Smokies. Spent an afternoon at a biker bar in Gatlinburg,, what a place. I just got out of the smokies today and am looking forward to a day off in Hot Springs, NC. Got drenched this morning but all is still good. I'll update soon. OH, I got my trail name...Rocket!


Thursday, April 23, 2009

Franklin, NC and 100 mi mark

Hi all,
I'm in Franklin, NC at the famous Haven Budget Inn. I was hoping to stay at the hostel next door ran by Miss Janet but of course they closed that yesterday. It took Matt from Maine (who is now 'Transition', and I awhile to to get into town. After an hour of failed hitching attempts we called Ron Haven from the Inn and he sent someone after us. The last few days of hiking have been perfect. Pretty easy except for a couple of 5000 + ft. climbs over Standing Indian Mtn and Albert Mtn Great views from the top though. Tuesday night was very cold, probably in the 20's with a strong wind. It was slow going the next morning. I've started hearing a lot more turkey calling and I flushed a grouse the other day. Today I heard about a dozen grouse 'drumming'. We past a sign yesterday warning us that there is a bear in the area stealing food bags that shows no fear of humans. Donny was carrying firecrackers so we felt pretty safe, ha! I'm sad to say it but Donny left us today. He met someone going to Asheville and said that he heard it was a cool town so once we got to the road crossing he was gone. He wasn't planning to go the whole way anyway. I hit the 100 mile mark today! Hard to believe I've gone that far already and only 2000 more to go. I plan to be in Fontana Dam by Monday or Tuesday. Not sure about internet though. Thanks for all of the emails (and poems). They're great! Still no trail name. Take it easy.


Monday, April 20, 2009

Hiawassee, GA

Hi everyone,
I'm in Hiawassee, GA at the public library taking a 1/2 day to rest up before I get into the NC mountains. The trip has been great so far, only one day of rain. I've met up with two guys, Matt from Maine, and Donnie from Pennsylvania, who I've been hiking with for the past couple of days. Some things I forgot to mention in the last email...there was a lot of bear activity around Neel's Gap, mainly on Blood Mtn. A couple hikers food bags were torn down and basically destroyed. One of the guys said the bear came back to his tent looking for his pack but he was able to yell at it and scare it off. On my second day I heard tell of a strange man who hiked into one of the shelters late at night carrying a 22 rifle, a machete and another big knife. Turns out that a lot of people have ran into him but last I heard was he was seen hitching a ride off the mountain. This guy Kevin who I met at the Walasi-Yi hostel has inherited another hiker's dog, Rooster. The dog apparently left its owner about a week ago and is now following Kevin. Well the owner, who had contd hiking north, showed up at a road crossing 2 days ago to get his dog back. Kevin thought he had gotten rid of this dog who had become a burden to him, but later that day Kevin showed up at our shelter with the dog! I guess, the dog doesn't like his other owner and Kevin is now stuck with Rooster. Other wildlife I've seen has been pretty slim. I see loads of chipmunks on the trail and here a lot of turkey. I met a woman last night who saw a bear and a wild boar on the same trail that I had just hiked...?? Hopefully I'll see some bears in the Smokies. I plan to be in Franklin, NC by Friday and hopefully in the Smokies by Tues or Weds. I'll try to find internet in Franklin so I can send another update. I'm pretty happy with all my gear so far. Staying warm every night in my 40 degree bag and toasty down jacket (thanks to Chuck). So far, the trail has been an emotional roller coaster. Hiking all day can get pretty boring and you have a lot of time to think. The trail has been highlighted by periods of highs and lows. Its always good to get encouragement from everyone following along so thanks to all of you that are following along. I've been pretty rushed when I find internet so if I don't respond to the emails, it doesn't mean that I didn't get them just that its hard to get to all of them. I hope everyone is doing well. I hope to update you soon.

Zach (no trail name yet)

Neels Gap

Hi all.
Here in Neels Gap, GA at the Walasi-Yi Center about 30 mi up trail. Making good miles but may slow pace so I don't blow out my knees. Heading to Hiawassee, GA, should be there in a few days. Nothing too crazy has happened yet but I'll keep everyone updated. For you wildlife freaks, I saw one eastern kingsnake today (almost stepped on it). Hope all is well.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Georgia to Maine

My name is Zach and I am attempting to walk from Georgia to Maine along the Appalachian Trail. The trip will start in mid-April from Springer Mountain, GA and (hopefully) end in September atop Mt. Katahdin, ME. Many folks have done this very thing since 1936. I hope to become one of them.

This site is primarily intended to update friends and family of my progress on the trail but I may occasionally post entries geared more to hikers who have wandered to this site so follow along and I'll try to make this mildly entertaining.