Sunday, December 9, 2012

Loner and Wildcat

It's been just a little over a month now since Loner and Wildcat made it to South Carolina, so I thought I'd offer a brief update.  Even though Loner summitted Katahdin on Sept,. 28th, he spent a week in Maine with his grandparents, went back to the trail for a week to hike a portion in Maine he missed when he flip-flopped to go meet Jeanine when he flew in from Ohio - he then went and stayed with Jeanine in Ohio while she worked her notice at her job and then they took a week traveling to S.C. going on digs in Ohio and Kentucky and hanging out with friends and family.
Since they got back to SC and are back in the real world, or at least Jeff's version of it, Jeff has been working hard getting his collectible business back up and running again, with Jeanine helping, but Jeanine is also scoping out ideas and formulating plans for her own business. They live in Jeff's camper, which Jeanine has been sprucing up and he and Jeanine will travel through South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia and further afield with his business.  On their limited down time, they've had some luck artifact hunting around the lakes in western S. C., took my granddaughter Kendall and I with them to the SC Artifact Show in Abbeville where they met up with some of the local you tube artifact folks. We were lucky - on the same day they were having a historic re-enactment throught the town of the civil war. Hint: Look for a beardless Loner in the video on his and Jeanine's new you tube channel.

The weather has been gorgeous so on they're off days they spend their time outdoors (or sometimes thr5ift store hunting). Recently they've both been out with Jeff's friends on a pontoon boat on one of the many gorgeous lakes in the area.  I know Jeff is missing kayaking big time, but his kayak needs some works and they're looking for a double seater.  Jeff is often asked to tell his Appalachian Trail stories when he meets up again with some of his buddies on the road or at the flea markets where he buys and sells collectibles. 
Good thing Jeanine had some experience of living on the AT, because they've been roughing it - only recently are they looking into getting their stove, refrigerator and hot water heater fixed. Out of necessity Jeanine's come up with some ways to cook healthy delicious meals on her one eyed hot plate even skillet pizza - all of which will end up in her cookbook of recipes of good and fun foods you can make on long distance hikes.
And of course we've been lucky and I get to see them about once a week as we pick back up but often talk about the trail.
Jeff hasn't wanted to be interviewed by the newspaper or be on our local TV station.  He says his Loner videos are his story.  when they can afford to get the internet, and not just have access infrequently at the library, he'll answer comments to Loner's page, but for now he's focusing on settling back in, making enough money to live on before making any big plans for the future - (although the talk of auditioning for the TV show the Amazing Race comes up pretty often). Jeanine has watched it the entire series and has s brilliant strategies for managing what gets thrown at the contestants.  And knowing her - and how she go for something rather than not - who knows? 

Friday, November 9, 2012

Loner and Wildcat come Home!!

It's been a long time coming but Loner finally arrived in Greenville, SC with his new sweetheart Wildcat on Thursday, Nov. 1st completing his Appalachian Trail adventure in an adventure!!
After reaching Katadhin on Sept. 28th as the 543rd NOBO thru-hiker, Loner visited his grandparents for a week, then went back on the AT for a week.
When he rode the bus to New York city, he took advantage of the opportunity to visit Times Square about midnight, - talk about a culture shift!
And synchronicity hit again when one of the few seats available on the bus to Ohio was right beside another thru-hiker, Tiny Dancer. They sat together and talked all the way to Ohio, where Wildcat met the bus bearing some trail magic for Tiny Dancer, who was traveling on to Texas.
 Tiny Dancer was one of the guys held up by the nutcase with a gun in  Tennessee, where he and three other guys overcame the attacker and kept him hog-tied until police arrived.
Loner and Wildcat (Jeff and Jeanine) then spent two weeks in Ohio visiting some interesting places such as the Air Force Museum and an arboretum, hiking, spending time with Jeanine's son & daughter. They also rece3ived a permit to go on a fossil dig near where the ground was being blasted to build a bridge and brought home some large primo pieces for Kendall's massive rock collection. They also had the chance to enjoy dinner with Jeanine's Ohio artifact hunting friends before packing up Wildcat's things so she could move to South Carolina with Loner.
However, they still had more stops to make  along the way in Kentucky. They stayed with more of Jeanine's  friends, where Jeff was taken on a dig underneath a massive overhang with caves and all before they headed south to meet Jeanine's mom and family.

Soooo - it wasn't until Nov. 1st that my son and his new girlfriend came up my driveway to the sound of lots of YAYS, hugs and holding back tears on my part.  It was so wonderful to see him after eight months!  And to meet Jeanine, who is delightful - smart, witty, funny, kind and creative.  She and I discovered we have a ton of things in common writing, creativity - and what fun, all thing British TV such as Dr. Who, Torchwood, Being Human, etc.!  They stayed for five days and I was very very proud to see Jeff, slim and trim, happy as I've never seen him before.

I would have blogged earlier but  we were pretty busy, attending my friend, Kay Larch's Day of the Dead art opening during our annual Open Studios Tour and then introducing  Jeanine to our beautiful city with it's many landmarks, two progressive art districts, over 50 galleries and studios, five theatre groups, an Indie film college, plenty of sculptures and the gorgeous downtown area along side the Reedy River.  All of the culture in Greenville is important to Jeanine who does photography, theater (she's already excited about our Shakespeare offering,) landscape painting, jewelery making, quilting and knitting. So lots of festivals, plays and art shows are in our future.
When we toured  our award winning Liberty Park with is suspension bridge and waterfalls, we walked way past dark, yucking it up, with Jeff, Jeanine and Kendall all paying homage to our famous massive rooted oak. Kendall took lots of photos since she has a passion and talent for photography and I was able to view our lovely progressive and constantly changing city through new eyes.
 And of course, there were lots of meals and family time. We seemed to always be celebrating  - Beth and Kendall prepared a huge feast for Jeff's birthday, Loner's completion of his great adventure and for Wildcat, whose first section hike  also called for celebration. And Kendall made an Appalachian Trail chocolate truffle cake.  I finally had a chance to give Jeff the Coca cola crate full of art and photo journals I made him of his Appalachian Trail trip and he loved it more than I expected, taking time to look at every one of the 13 journals and rereading our email exchanges of six months.  Now he and Jeanine have a place to stash their photos, keep important phone numbers and email addresses of other 2012 thru-hikers and journal their memories in case we have a tech meltdown. Jeff got to see how much Kendall and Devin have grown, when he left Devin was a babe in arms and now she walks and talks and Kendall has probably grown a foot since he left and he could see how much she had matured during the 8 months he was away.
So Tuesday after lots of hugs, Loner and Wildcat  set off on the next adventure and have started posting their adventures on a new You Tube site,  JeanineandJeff, there's a two new videos on Jeff's Carolina Arrowheads  and Loner has added one or two more videos to the You Tube video blog of his Appalachian Trail thru-hike at his site Loner2012AT.
Hopefully he'll be adding more with some updates.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Appalachian Adventure - book review

One interesting older book I found at my local library was a coffee table style book called Appalachian Adventure - From Georgia to Maine- A Spectacular Journey. edited by Alfred O. Hero; written and photographed by a team of journalists, illustrators and photographers from five different newspapers who walked the trail in relays.
I find this to be a wonderful book, full of lavish photographs, maps,extremely interesting and user friendly graphs and sidebars such as The Toll of the Trail and and reports from the various teams who climbed five different sections of the trail. In addition there are checklists, sidebars on the mountains and trail itself, from history and maintenance.
As a photojournalist and features writer for my local newspaper for four years, I especially enjoyed the graphs and sidebars, realizing how difficult it is to create one compressing the most relevant information
into an easy to comprehend yet attractive form.  I was encouraged to create some sort of sidebar for each feature article I wrote and found them to be a fun, but sometimes difficult challenge.  So I can appreciate the work these teams went into, often having to write, shoot and create the files to send to their editors right from the trail.
Each team also has different approaches and styles in telling of their first hand experiences based on what part of the trail they hiked and their individual personalities.I believe this book would be a great incentive and preparation for any future thru-hiker, more philosophical and inspirational perhaps than a guide to plan the day to day aspects of a hike. \
And even more so, I think, even more this book will be a type of support to family and friends missing their thru-hikers.  I borrowed this book from the library three times over the course of Loner's trek and then ended up buying it.  It gives Kendall, my granddaughter, a view of the hike, from a different perspective of Loner's videos and gave me more insight to many of the facts and helpful knowledge about the Appalachian Trail and what a thru-hike entails so I can more fully understand what Loner experiences throughout hiking the various states and mountain ranges.
Plus, even though I haven't written for a newspaper in years, I do enjoy it from a professional angle because our newspaper would never think of taking on a project this size.  It must have taken a heck of a lot of time just to arrange it through the five papers, The Atlanta Jounral-Constitution, The News and Observer of Raleigh, The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, The Hartford Courant and the Maine Sunday Telegram. And that's not c0jsidering the complexity and time to deal with the logistics. In addition, I know of few journalists who would volunteer for such a job. Each team's story was published in their newspaper before the publication of the book, so they had to think on two different levels - from writing a feature story to writing a chapter in an anthology.  That's a tough call, and I wonder how much communication they had with the other teams as they went along to keep the book cohesive and then there's the difficult job of the editor and photo editor.  This is a monumental effort, and as a previous editor I can't imagine taking on such a complex challenge.
It's one of those books, you can pi9ck up o0ver and over, check out a section or just enjoy the photography. 

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Loner Videos at Katahdin

As I wait for Loner to make his way home by various means and routes it's starting to sink in on what's achieved. 
He's taken more than 5 million steps, some with people he'll never forget, some with Wildcat with whom he's fallen in love during this unpredictable journey, many alone.  He's learned a great deal about America and showed others more about the country they live in and the history of its evolution.  He's suffered and experienced moments of bliss unlike any he's ever imagined.  He's become closer to our earth, nature and it's creatures, even though he thought he was connected before.  He's returned to his roots and and explored places of wonder both within and without.  He's altered in many ways and may not know in years how.  For a shy, private guy he's opened himself and his soul to his followers and to someone very special beyond his dreams.  He's accomplished his dream of walking from Georgia to Maine, but it isn't over and may never be.  As many thru-hikers reveal they think of the Appalachian Trail every day and many return each year, even for just a section.
Now Loner, and the friends he's made from the Class of 2012 who have summitted Katahdin, join the few, the very few - at the moment, less than 14,800, over the history of the Appalachian Trail, out of the entire population of the world - who have ever completed the Appalachian Trail journey.
And here they are ....what we've all been waiting for the last  series of videos and Loner's summit of Katahdin.

Loner's mini photo album - scrapbooking

In a post long long ago,  I mentioned a  in a post, that I was making what they call in the scrapbooking world - a mini photo album.  I started it when loner left for his trip and have been working on it  ever since he left.  It turned out to be a collection of ten albums on the states.  I combined some of the states with the shorter parts of trail.
I'm starting to post and write a little bit about that journal on another blog so I don't clog up this one - that blog Black Swan Scrapper, is mostly for folks interested in photography, scrapbooking or altered book arts.  But just in case there are some family members or even thru-hikers who would like some sort of keepsake of their AT journey perhaps this will give you a few ideas.
Corajeanine already knows about the project but Loner doesn't read this blog (he thought it was all about my worrying) so I don't think he'll see it until he gets home in a few weeks.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Vids Loner & Wildcat Maine

Yay!  finally!! Loner must have stayed up all night to post a set of new videos. He's posted 9 more videos of his trip through the beginning of the rugged trails of Maine
In addition, we get to travel with his girlfriend, Jeannine or Corajeanine or Jean she answer to all) too from Monson to Caratunk. Jeff has given her the name Wildcat. She came to out to hike with him for a week.
There's some river fording, some mud, playing among the boulders, some climbs and falls, meeting of new friends and oldies too  - like E Z. Nomad. There's gourmet cooking  - we need the recipes Corajeanine! -  and lots of smiles.
Like the hikers say, "It's not about the miles, it's about the smiles!
And he sent me a photo of him at Katadhin!
But as far as videos, we'll have to wait for him to do another marathon editing session.  I think he may be editing some of Wildcat's footage in here too because she shot lots of those lush panoramic views.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Post Katadhin News

I've had a chance to talk to Loner when he called from his grandmother's house.   He told me that he was hiking with a group of folks and he and Texas Pete ran for two days in the 100 Mile Wilderness because they wanted to beat the rain heading into Baxter State Park.  Texas Pete Loner did a 22, 23 and 28 mile day and then another ten on the day they summited Katahdin.  Loner signed in at the Baxter State Park register as hiker #583.  there's going to be a large Class of 2012.
A large group went up Katahdin before him, but Loner went up alone later.  It was a beautiful day with blue skies and he mentioned, that at the top, his legs got jittery. He said he took videos and photographs himself because there was no one else. He didn't get down to the bottom until about dusk.
Later, Loner had some good luck with two Trail Angels who drove him to Millinocket and then the next day to Bangor where he got his ride to his grandmother's.
He's been spending time with his grandmother and her husband and his aunt and uncle and his first meal was at Texas Road House. He's enjoying his stay with his relatives, and they've been wonderful to him, feeding him great meals. Tomorrow he goes out on his uncle's boat.  He hasn't seen his grandmother or aunt in a very long time so I know he's enjoying catching up. He admits it's hard for him to be inside and he feels the need to walk. He also gets tense in crowded places such as restaurants. So he's going through a bit of White Blaze Fever.  He hasn't been able to use the internet or check messages and I know he's enthusiastic about getting back to film editing.  He's hoping to get online today at least to look at emails.  It's one of the activities, like hiking, kayaking or arrowhead hunting which put him in the zone.  He hasn't processed much yet. 
He's talked to Jeanine everyday and I know he can't wait to see her again  And I can't wait to see him too.
I'll keep you posted.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Loner Summits Katadhin!!!

Loner called Corajeanine last night and told her that he had already summited Katahdin Sept. 28th!!  He tried to call me but I didn't get to the phone in time and I know he only had a few minutes left on his phone.  But he got wildcat and she passed the info on to me.
Loner said that it was a beautiful day and clear and he was hiking up Katahdin with some of the hikers he and Wildcat had met at Caratunk (or Monson)  I'm not sure which.
Loner told her he had met some day hikers on the trail, as well, and they gave him a lift to Millinockt last night and were going to give him a ride to Bangor, Maine, where his grandmother lives.  So that was some grateful serendipity for sure. Thanks goes out to hose hikers!
Wildcat and I couldn't get off the phone, constantly repeating how we couldn't believe he'd made it already.  He told me last week, he though he'd make it by Saturday, Sept 29th must he must have been booking,  or night hiking with his headlamp to make it.   We just kept saying over and over, "I can't believe it" or "I'm amazed."   The journey seemed so long, and the wait without videos was frustrating, but perhaps without news of knowing exactly where he was each day, we could't believe that once he was out of the 100 Mile Wilderness his journ3ey was almost finished.  Unfortunately there's no videos yet and I'm not sure where his computer is, so not sure when there will be videos.  He didn't have time to give more details so we're waiting on those too.  I can't imagine all the emotions he's feeling.
I'm filled with a huge respect for his dedication, but also a certain selfish gratitude that I'll get to see him soon. As I do the happy dance and holding back tears of pride, I'm rushing around now getting ready for his return home to So9uth Carolina, after he visits with his grandmother and then goes to Ohio to be with Wildcat.

Fatherman summits Katadhin

Fatherman summited Katadhin today, Sept. 26, 2012!  My family, including Loner and I follow him and enjoy watching his videos.  He was hiking before Loner started and served as an inspiration.  I've enjoyed his style, as well as his traveling talk show.  
And it gets better for us the viewers... he's posted 17 more videos on his You Tube Blog FM on the AT 2012,  HBC2194's  channel.
Great country,meeting new people, hearing about old friends on the trail, some fishing and fording of streams, meeting cool folks at the Hiker Hut, the climbing of mountains and some introspective insights from Fatherman and friends as he approached Katadhin.  Not to mention the summit video - one very important showing of the FM Traveling AT Talk Show. 
Thanks FM - you've inspired a whole new crop of hikers and helped supporters of the Class of 2012 stay sane.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Loner in !00 Mile Wilderness

Corajeanine is now home in Ohio, and I heard from Loner from the top of  Barren Mtn. in the 100 Mile wilderness in Maine on Sept. 24th.  We had a very brief chat but at least he can get cell service on the tops of mountains.  He didn't have much to say except that he had to head north in order to meet his grandmother in time and he and Jeanine had a great time.  Loner gave Jeanine the trail name Wildcat.

Once Loner can post, and Wildcat has time to add her videos to her video blog, there will be some great shots and videos, since both of them love indie film making and photography.  When Loner picked her up at the airport (thanks to the shuttle guy!) Wildcat said there was never an awkward moment.  I get to talk to Wildcat  more than Loner these days but I'll let her tell you their story herself .  She posted a journal entry and some more great photos on White Blaze. 
These are some photos she took of their hike. 

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Loner, not alone, in Maine

So here's the scoop:  I just got a phone call from Jeff as he rode a shuttle bus to the airport in Portland, Maine.  No, he's not getting off the AT, he's riding back with Jeanine, who flew into Maine to hike with him last week.  He rode the shuttle from Rangeley to meet her and then they both rode the shuttle back to Monsoon. 
Their initial idea was to hike towards Katadhin so she could hike that part of the trail with him, but they didn't think they'd have enough time so they hiked back to Caratunk.
Loner said she was a great hiker at 10 miles a day and got her first blister on the last day of her time in Maine.  Boy, did Loner get spoiled along the way. Jeanine made the fire and cooked every night and then topped it off with dishes like pancakes and chocolate dipped pretzels.
So now you might need a little background story since some may wonder how all this came about since Loner never mentioned a girlfriend until maybe July.
I think it's an amazing story given that Loner was about to get off the trail two months ago in New York and now his journey has taken such an unexpected turn.
Loner had only known Jeanine from watching her You Tube videos on Corajeanine's Channel. 
They followed reach other's videos because they both have a passion for arrowhead hunting.
Loner had posted comments on her You Tube video blog  You Tube blog and she had commented on his videos on Carolina Arrowheads. Jeff recently admitted to me that he'd had an interest in her for about a year, but had never said anything, never wrote a private message or email to start a conversation. 
Jeanine and I talked on the phone or emailed almost everyday for about two weeks before she left for Maine.  She's such a delightful woman, full of energy and enthusiasm for life and told me she'd loved the outdoors all her life since hiking and exploring the mountains of her native Kentucky as young as four years old.
She started watching Loner videos, I'm thinking at the suggestion of one of the arrowhead collectors in Ohio, who are a real close group who get together often to go on hunts. Jeff's been communicating with the Ohio group for a couple of years now via the comment sections on their you tube channels and they are all very supportive of each other and learn form each other.
But for a while Jeanine she didn't even realize that Loner of the Appalachian Trail was also Jeff of Carolina Arrowheads.  Once she did, however, she started sending him private messages which led to phone calls in July and a short while ago, Jeff invited Jeanine to come join him on the trail.  Afterall, in the small and close community of arrowhead hunters, how many are women share the same passion which requires both patience and affiliation with the outdoors?
Three weeks ago they started making plans. This was quite a surprise to me, since Jeff is the last person I'd expect to meet someone via the computer, but once I started communicating and talking to Jeanine on the phone, I could see how it could happen.  She's such an open and down to earth person, full of ideas with the drive to put them into action and one who lives life to its fullest. As an example, this is the woman, with two children in college who does a cartwheel every time she finds an arrowhead! That's a joy in life not found in too many places these days.  Like Jeff she delights in the simple and natural things of life and they share many other things in common, interests, values and their philosophical viewpoints on life.
 Her enthusiasm is so contagious - I know she's had a powerful effect on Loner's journey and offered support, even before she went and hiked with him in person. 
The photo at the top of both of Loner and Jeanine was taken on top of Moxie Bald.  I thought the background was snow, but Jeanine told me it's some type of white moss or lichen.
They also hiked Pleasant Pond Mtn. and stopped in Caratunk yesterday. They were both sad when they boarded the shuttle today to take Jeanine back to the airport and then Loner back to Rangeley where he'll finish his hike through Maine and to Katadhin. 
It's probably going to be sketchy as far as receiving phone calls, emails or videos from now on.  And they may not get on until after he finishes his journey.  I'll try and let you know as I know. 

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Appalachian Trail 75th Anniversary

This year marks the 75th anniversary of the Appalachian Trail, a very special year for the Class of 2012 thru-hikers, and celebrations from Harper's Ferry ( which is also celebrating the 150th anniversary of the 1862 Battle of Harper's Ferry), West Virginia, Rangeley Maine are going as I write to celebrate the history of the trail, the maintenance and preservation of the trail and the trail towns along the way who support the trail and the

In addition to overseeing the many volunteers and Trail Mainentance clubs and groups along the AT, they also teaches hikers from how to best enjoy and protect the trail.
And for my interests, they also keep up with all the statistics every year. On White Blaze, Leantree peaked my interest in the stats when he posted that The Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC), published some new information in their Sept./Oct. 2012 issue of AT Journey on the number of thru-hikers who made it about half way on their thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail this year. This year the ATC in Harper's Ferry registered a record number of thru-hikers passing through their long awaited doorway... 1,012 hikers made it that far, beating the 2011 number of 849. However, on the ATC website as of Sept. 12th they had upped that number to 1,016.
They also posted on the website that 2,500 NOBO thru-hikers registered in 2012 at either Amicalola Falls (A blue blaze or approach trail) or Springer Mtn in Georgia for the start of their trek. These numbers do not include the 500 or so Southbound hikers, flip floppers or section hikers which also start the trail.
Even though the Appalchian Trail was envisioned by Benton Mv\cKay in 1921, at first it was put together in sections and it didn't open until 1937 from Georgia to Maine, but it wasn't until 1948 when  the first northbound thru hike was accomplished by only one hiker, Earl Shaffer of York, PA, who also later set the records for the first southbound thru hike and the oldest thru-hiker when he did it again when he was 80- years old, fifty years later.
Since then  12,000 completions have been registered of those who thru-hiked.  But the rates are growing in large numbers. 
The ATC office at Harper's Ferry, West Virginia, considered the main mid-section, is where every thru hiker reaches a welcome milestone. Here one of the staff takes their photo in front of the building and it's get in yearly logbook. Each hiker is also given a new hiker number, reflecting their new placement, since y now usually 50% of thru-hikers have dropped off the trail.

Loner was the 801st NOBO thru-hiker to check in at Amicalola Falls/Springer Mtn., Georgia and he was the 529th hiker to pass through West Virginia.  Once he reaches Katahdin, he'll receive a new number representing his place among those 2012 thru hikers who will complete the Appalachia Trail as they summit Mt. Katahdin in Baxter Maine State Park. . 

Friday, September 14, 2012

Fatherman and Apache post more videos

Well, I stand corrected from my previous post.  Fatherman and his AT Traveling Talk Show has now posted five new videos, from New Hampshire but dating back to August. In some of the videos, he's with a huge crowd of hikers - like what you'd see at the beginning of the AT, not closing in on the end.  He introduces some folks he hasn't met before.  In others it's just FM and Medicine Man on Moosilauke heading towards the Whites. And we get a different view than the Loner posted of that rough trail going back down Moosilauke (and I'm not talking about Medicine Man's kilt.

And Apache has reached Maine and is posting videos as I write.  He's posting from right before and then after the border between New Hampshire and Maine, and it looks pretty rugged, cold and a bit cruel if you ask me as it sits atop Mt. Success in NH and then   Lots of rebar climbing on the Goose Eye Trail in Maine. 

Loner in Rangley, Maine

The class of 2012, at least the hikers I follow who are on their way to Katahdin, have gone eerily silent.  No video blogs, no text blogs, no phoned in messages.  I guess that goes to prove that Maine is an outdoors world, as the state juts up here above Quebec Canada.
Rayo, Frenchy, and P.J. Wetzel have summitted  Katahdin; Fatherman, Apache and Loner have gone off the radar as they enter the Mahoosuc Mountain Range and either close in or now trek through the 100 Mile Wilderness with towns, libraries, hostels and resupplies in short supply.  Maine is a big deal to hikers, they've been seeing AT signs pointing in two different directions for close to 2,000 miles, one pointing to Spring Mtn. in Georgia, the other pointing to Mt. Katahdin in Maine.
I did get a very brief email from Loner that he was in Rangeley, Maine about 220 miles from Katahdin on Sept. 12th as he was doing his laundry.  That was it - I imagine a brief use of a computer somewhere.  I hear his phone battery is giving him some trouble and haven't had a phone call in about a week.  Rangeley is a beautiful upscale wilderness resort in the lakes region of Maine, and comprises 267 miles of the Appalachian Trail. Many folks say it's the toughest part of the trail, as if the previous 2,000 or so miles was just prep work. In Maine alone, thru-hikers will complete the equivalent of hiking Mt. Everest.  So I know he's getting the views.  Just hope his camera is holding up for future videos. (photo is from
So now I guess we just wait.  

Monday, September 10, 2012

Loner in Maine - Final State

Jeanine and I heard from Loner as he reached Andover, Maine on Sept. 8.  Last state to go, he's less than 250 miles away from Katahdin right now.  Jeanine is flying in to Portland than driving to meet him so they can hike part of the trail together!  They are both very excited (and I imagine slightly nervous).  Jeff mentioned that he'd finished Mahoosuc Notch Trail which is filled with glacial boulders and has the infamous notoriety of offering the most challenging mile on the AT.  Loner  said it was hard but he made it. He's also been dealing with some major hammock fail - so hopefully he can rig something up to last the rest of the trip.
Not sure if their will be any more videos - it depends on the facilities on Rangeley.  After that there's not too much in the way of towns or WIFI.
In other news, followers of fans of Fatherman were wondering where he was since he hadn'ty posted any videos since August 17th.  Loner said he'd talked to FM when FM was in Andover, New Hampshire but Loner was still in Gorham, NH. He figured FM is about five days ahead of him. This is what Loner wrote me:
"FM is fine and I've seen his name in the logs. He is about a week ahead. He left me a note that he was in Andover when I was in Gorham. There is not much signal in these parts and he only has his phone to make vids. Most THRU HIKERS that post vids have a big gap near the end and then catch up after. "
 Fatherman finally got on White Blaze and in his usual sense of humor to let us know he was still on the trail and wrote this:  
"FM here!! Alive and well, my friends. The rumor of my demise has been greatly exaggerated, ha! Thanks for the concern, and yes, the vids are coming soon!"
Although he still didn't tell us where he was, darn it.  
One person even posted that Fatherman was looking thin and that's the truth with all the thru hikers - they're all looking pretty rough by now, thin, boney, cheekbones protruding, bags under their eyes, long scraggly beards.  Loner says the young crowd looks even worse - they're all "stick men." he told me.

Frenchy Summits Katadhin 8/25/2012

I'm a little late on this announcement, but another thru-hiker who Loner and I have been following is Frenchy (Matt French) from New Jersey.  He summitted Katahdin on August 25th, 2012, after leaving base camp at Baxter State Park at 3:30 am.  He walked up in the dark and experience sunrise at the summit by himself!  A rare thing these days since it's prime weather for daytrippers and Frenchy is also somewhere within the hiker bubble of those left out who will make it the entire 2, 180 miles.
Frenchy has been a great hiker to follow because he keeps a blog, Journey North, as well as a you tube journal.  He's an excellent writer, full of atmosphere, detail, energy, metaphor and emotion.  I had tears in my eyes as I read the emotionally-laden post of his summit hike, and another viewer admitted they welled up too. I know I've said it before, but as we come to know the hikers and family members of the Class of 2012 (and before) from White Blaze, You Tube, Blogs and Trail Journals, we feel like we know them even though we've never met.  I think this is one reason that Trail Days in Damascus is so huge because all these people want to reunite with friends they met in person along the trail, but also hikers want to meet other hikers, they only heard about or saw their names in the shelter log books.  And the families and supporter want to meet each other as we helped each other along the way. 
 I hope he takes the time to turn his blog into a book.
 But he was smart to to utilize a You Tube journal called Appalachian Frenchy 2012, too, since I think the Class of 2013 thru-hikers and every year after that may prefer the video diaries, as opposed to blogs or journals.  and it's much easier now with smart phones and small laptops.  Luxuries past thru hikers and old timers couldn't indulge in.  Times they are a changin' - sometimes too fast for me.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Kath's tips for hiker support

Kath from White Blaze, who has been a great supporter for Loner, passed on another great tip.  Lightweight and easy and fun.  She has been sending drop boxes to a number of 2012 thru-hikers and she likes to include gift cards.  These are for food - one of the things besides a shower, and laundromat, a hiker craves even  before he gets to town and food it the top of the list.  They often only think of  food that last few miles to town. I'm kicking myself I never thought of this and didn't find out until he was 1800 miles in.
 This is what she told me.
  "I think that is one of the BEST things to send the hikers as long as they are ones like Pizza Hut, Subways, McDonalds, etc. as you know they have them in almost every town. They are light and can be used as soon as they hit town. Plus I think some hikers hate to spend the money, but this way they can eat a lot without feeling guilty. Plus they do not have to spend it at one time." 
For those family members or supporters who purchase their own guide book, as I suggested in an earlier post, they should be able to see which chains are in which towns, and that will help on choosing cards they can use the next place they stop.  Up until you get close to Maine, you should be safe with any of these big three but towns are smaller the further north you go and some don't even have the popular fast food places.  In the Appalachian Trail Thru-Hikers Companion, there's a map of each town with the locations of the restaurants and other things a hiker needs in town, such as hostels and hostels, outfitters, laundromat, library, WIFI accessibility, laundromat and grocery stores. 
The other idea she came up with is a great game hikers can use on the trail - lightweight as well, especially good for the gram weenies like Loner.
 I had never heard of a carabiner game and I'm not sure which one she sent him, but they're so cool because they can hang from a backpack strap and entertain a hiker when he's rained out or resting for the night.  The little game I sent was a Carabiner and it has different light patterns that emit. You have to try and memorize them and repeat it back. It's a lot of fun that should keep Jeff busy for hrs on the trail! And super super light.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Loner Completes the Whites

Well, this has been an an up and down part of Loner's Trip, he's left Gorham, NH yesterday and should be in Maine today!!!  The last and final state. He has loaded 4 new videos of The White Mountains, an up and down trip, including high 70 mph winds and Jeff's most exciting day and getting soaked and having to camp on the side of Mt Madison and spending a very very cold and wet night. So we get to see that you can't always stay positive - some conditions are just too rough.  Lots of great scenery  and a small town thrown in. But he also got to hike with some cool hikers and loves the Whites. And he's now only about 290 miles from Katadhin.

 Loner also reveals something that I didn't even know about until two weeks ago and it's pretty exciting but I don't want to put a spoiler in here.  After you've had a chance to watch the videos and if you catch it let me know, and I'll tell you some background stories.  It's a pretty great thing and certainly nothing Loner expected when he left from Georgia. 
And I can tell you its even better than finding an arrowhead on his birthday on the AT!
He admitted he's had some days when he just wants to get home, but he's going to finish now that he only has less than 400 miles to go - about three weeks.
It's not that he minds the climbs and the mountains but that he's excited and homesick at the same time and eager to get there now that some people he knows are reaching Katadhin.  He never met Frenchy but followed him on You Tube. 

Friday, August 31, 2012

Loner Summits Mt. Washington

Loner climbed Mt. Washington on August 29th, Weather conditions around 10:30 am were 39 degrees, 40 mph winds and 19 chill factor.  I'm glad he took a zero day, the day before because of the weather which was 35 in the morning, 60 mile an hour winds, sleeting and foggy.   He said the summit was really crowded with folks who had come up on the cog railway and other hikers besides thru hikers.  Not his scene.  He left the summit about 2:00 pm and hammock hanged somewhere on the hike the down. At the height of Mt. Washington, famous of it's Cog Railway, Loner has only 332 miles to go to Katadhin.
He climbed 16 mountains in New Hampshire including Lincoln, Lafayette, Webster, Pierce,  Franklin,  - most of them at elevations of 3,000, 4,000 or 5,000 with Mt. Washington at 6,288.
He only has nine to ten more Mts to climb in New Hampshire, finishing up with Mt Success and then he can trudge to Gorham, NH either today or tomorrow where a hotel room is waiting for him.  
Here's an even better internet site on Mt. Washington turbulent weather, The Mt. Washington Weather Center, Their slogan says it all "Home of the World's Worst Weather"!  I think this website is better than the one I listed in a previous post.  It has constantly updated info, since the weather on Mt. Washington can change rapidly, wind velocities have been clocked at 249 mph, and temperatures can drop even in the summer from 40 to 50 degrees compared to the valley.  And the lowest recorded temperature for the summit in august has been a freezing 20 degrees!  I'm glad he packed his winter gear.
I'm glad Jeff's already hiked Mt Washington, but he probably will still be affected by this weather front on the other mountains he's facing, The temps are dropping and the wind chill even more and there will be thunderstorms with sleet and large hail due to a Canadian low pressure system and a cold front coming.  That's makes for some cold and slippery hiking.  He's had a few rainy days already this week so that shower and warm bed at Gorham will be a welcome rest before he makes his start through his final state.
Wow.  The last state - it's mind boggling to even think of him walking this many miles.  I just can't even imagine the energy and motivation it takes for these hiker to pull this off, a journey they will never ever forget and which will transform them for the rest of their lives.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Just Passin' Thru book review

I have to say that Just Passin' Thru: A Vintage Store, the Appalachian Trail, and a Cast of Unforgettable Characters by Winton Porter is in my top five books on the Appalachian Trail - speaking from a family member as opposed to a thru-hiker. This non-fiction collection of stories about real people, is a find not only because I scored an autographed copy on the used Amazon section, but also because it gives you a cross-section of the types of people who want to hike the trail and the people who help them along the way in the service industries such as hostels and rescuers.  
Author Winton Porter knows of what he speaks - he's been written up in Backpacker Magazine, been featured in You Tube videos and has been awarded the  Georgia Author of the Year. And ...  afterall he is the owner of Mountain Crossings at Walasi-Yi, the first way station on the trail after Springer in Neel's Gap, Georgia, near Blood Mountain as well as an avid hiker.  His story of how he came to own Mountain Crossings is interesting right off the start, due to the sacrifices and the loyalty of his family when he followed his dream to purchase the buildings built by the  Civilian Conservation Corps in 1940. 
 Loner visited Mountain Crossings the October previous to leaving in April 2012 to do a test hike of his gear and to get a shake down.  He was pretty much on the mark but also took advantage of every suggestion they made before setting off on his thru-hike.  He also said the people were great.  I highly recommend this book to family, friends and support folks so that they will encourage their hiker to stop in here of if they have a chance visit before they purchase their gear.  I'd also advise them to take the advice of the experts during their shake down. No hiker should be embarrassed because everyone is new to this at first. All they have to do listen and they'll benefit from the years of shared experie3nce housed in this building.  I'm glad Loner went there on his own and told me about it - because due to the fact that he listened and learned, he saved me a lot more worry than I would have had otherwise.
The hub of Mountain Crossings is the store where hikers don't just come to restock, but for the first timers, its the opportunity to get a shake down where the highly knowledgeable Porter (who previously worked for REI) and his staff provide a service which has saved lives.  One of the Mountain Crossings staff asks the hike to lay out the contents of their backpack and then the decisions on equipment and needs are made, eventually getting the pack weight down. The shake down also includes suggestions on whether a piece of gear will take them through the cold, keep them dry or keep them hydrated. The staff is known for getting a hiker's pack weight down to manageable proportions so they don't give up and get off the trail from exhaustion. 
Aside from the gear talk, the true stories in Just 0Passin Thru are gifts until themselves. They run the gamut from frightening and sad to hilarious, with one thing in common - these little  of life on the Appalachian Trail are nothing like what you'd ever expect, even considering where they take place. 
Which brings me to another reason why the store is the hub - the people, not just counting the friendly, invested staff, but also the previous thru-hikers who always stop in as they pass by on their treks, some of them the 3rd or 4th thru, and some who come to stay a while.  The ones who enjoy taking on jobs just out of their passion for the trail and their eagerness to see everyone who makes the attempt actually get to pose at the sign atop Katadhin. 
And boy, are they characters, from  Billy Bumblefoot who sets off on searches for lost hikers at a moment's notice, or watches the hikers trailing in from a lawn chair set atop the Mountain Crossings roof line, to Pirate who lives under the stairs in the basement and volunteers to take care of the hostel. 
As hikers come up the trail to the stone buildings, they notice how the AT goes under a roof joining the store and the hostel. This is the only only location on the trail covered by a roof . And as each hiker walks up the stairs to the welcome sight of the shop's door in need everything from the rescue of friend back on the trail, to just hot chocolate and a snicker bar or two, they discover the best thing they find are the smiling faces of folks who have or will be sharing the same experiences.  

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Loner in N. Woodstock, NH

Loner is now in N. Woodstock, New Hampshire - less than 400 miles to go - on the doorsteps of the Presidential Range.   He's watched the Perseid Meteor shower from the summit of Killington, visited an organic farm, (will you please pass the goat cheese, Jeff?) rode a gondola for free, climbed Moosilauke and made his stand on the lack of phones in hotel rooms. He's also been to one of my favorite places on the trail - although I have to admit it's really creepy.  Fatherman says it's called White Rocks Cliff Trail. But Jeff called it the Blair Witch Project and I'm kind with him on that one.  He's checked the porcupine off his list of  must see wildlife.  I didn't know it but he's already seen two bobcats - how cool is that?  Now he wants to spot a mountain lion, but it would have to be on a day after a town stop when he's had a shower - those cats can smell a thru-hiker from 100 miles a way, I bet.
Yup - you got it - another batch of videos have been loaded - 10 more at last count.  He really seems to be enjoying himself now that he's getting closer and closer.

An Important Supporter Tip

And now for another hiker supporter tip and this one is very important.  Pass it on to any 2012 thru-hiker but especially to 2013 future thru-hikers an supporters - I think it's one of the best tips yet.  

 Kath, who is a supporter for Loner, send me the link to this page on White Blaze and it's amazing.  It's an article on each section of the trail, and  the writer, Map Man, Steve Shuman) has done a study on the mileage hikers make in different sections of the trail based on the research of thru-hikers who kept daily detailed journal on White Blaze for his data.  Mapman  has come up with some easy to read graphs and if I had known about this article, I would have spent a lot less time worrying when Jeff didn't email when I expected him to and also been able to figure out mail drop box locations myself rather than having to wait for Loner to email me.
What a valuable tool his research offers. I can't tell you how much it helps to alleviate worry, offer realistic expectations and help with planning mail drop boxes. Wow - I can't imagine the time energy and mental real estate it took to do this study but I'm going to recommend it to every 2013 supporter I come across. 

This is a must read for any thru-hiker and their support system!!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Mail Magic in Hanover, NH

Loner reached Hanover, New Hampshire Sat. Aug 16th.  Only two more states to go!  442 miles!!!! 
He only had time to post one video since he was using the library but it was a very important video for Loner.  He wanted to reply to all the folks who commented on his You Tube videos and to especially make the video to the amazingly kind and generous people who sent packages!  He was overwhelmed again!  I never heard the term Mail Magic before but Loner has been receiving it for in a few states now and I know it has to make his day. 
He's ready to start hitting the Presidential Range in the Whites, but disappointed that the outfitters are either closed for good or aimed at other sports as opposed to long-distance hiking.  I've sent some his winter gear - he'll need it for the White Mtns and Maine.  
At least counting presidents doesn't feel like hiking PUD's (Pointless Up's and Down's.)
 I'm getting so excited for him and found a wonderful website on the Mt. Washington Observatory where the winds have been clocked as the fastest in the U.SD. at 249 mph. I've read on White Blaze that this area, surprisingly is rather heavily traveled during August.  Mainly because people can drive to trails that they can do in a day or weekend.  

My nine year old granddaughter, Kendall, is going to love this part, (maybe not as much as Her Uncle Jeff's  moose You Tube video, maybe) but in addition to loving her Uncle Jeff, she loves history and like her mother and uncle reads every plaque of historical interest and any display of the presidents leads her to guessing before reading, trying to see how many of the puzzle pieces she can put with each president.
She had to stay and figure out all this with in triple digit weather at the moving Viet Name wall display.  She didn't want to leave until she did them all.  Although, because I was wilting away, I talked her into doing the ones which are her favorites:  the founding fathers like anyone with a New Englander grandmother and Uncle, like myself, but also the recent presidents.  It's fun to see her gobble up the facts like they were cookies she hoards for later use - a debate? a book?  Who knows if it his will translate into her future or if she'll follow her mother into the medical field, since Kendall's dream has been to become a pediatrician since she was about four or five. And she can even watch brain and heart surgery on TV.  It's always fun to see a young person's passion shine. 

Monday, August 20, 2012

More Mail Drop Tips

I wish I'd mentioned this way way earlier in my posts but I've only discovered this myself, although, Karen, a thru-hiker mom (who actually section hikes with her daughter, recommended this but I didn't take her advice soon enough) Having your own guidebook is one of the best ways to follow your thru hiker.  It's another way and a practical one to keep up with his journey, augmenting the emails, texts, phone calls, journal posts, blogs or video blogs is to have your own guidebook.  Loner has used two, The Appalachian Trail Thru-Hikers Companion available at the Appalachian Trail Conservancyand the Appalachian Trail Guide by David Miller found on Amazon.

The reason I recommend them is double fold, the first is the best tracking tool I've found, which is the foot map available from many of the outfitters and stores you find along the trail.  I'm not sure where Loner found the ones he gave to me and his sister before he left, but it may have been at either the Amicalola State Park Visitor's Center in Georgia or at the Mountain Crossings at Walasi-Yi Outfitters and Hostel  - the place every hiker should visit - maybe even before they buy their gear to save themselves from having to send stuff The A.T. Guide 2012home.  You can read about their experiences with the gear checks they do in Winton Porter's Great book, Just Passin' Thru great book, (which I promise to review soon)  and also see interviews with them in the National Geographic Appalachian Trails video. 
  Loner has bought his books through the mail and at outfitters - he's had three already, a 2012 and a 2011 when the outfitter didn't have any more 2012s.
The amazing map,  I highly recommend because it's fun and awe-inspiring for families in addition to keeping up with where  your  hiker is, useful facts such as  how many miles from Georgia or Maine they are currently at,  elevations of mountains and terrain, so that once they get in their stride and you know their average daily mileage - you can sort of predict where they be from day to day.
Now that will change because of layovers in towns and side trips or just rest times in difficult or rainy areas, but on the whole it helps a lot to know where they are and what the conditions are.

Because of the guidebooks, I could guess the kind of gear or food Loner might need such as when to send his winter gear.  It also helps to remind and ask your hiker when and if they might need something and where to send it.
All hikers but especially solo hikers are in what Loner  what's called White Blaze fever, which I surmise is when they have hard time with traffic, crowded stores, people, etc.  they become overstimulated by all the sensory impressions in civilization, even in small towns. They also tend to look for white blazes everywhere to tell them which way to go - not all towns have them, but some do since the AT runs right through the middle of town.  Loner has mentioned it a couple of times.
And while they've thought to themselves that they need a particular item in their next mail drop, they might not remember if they've let you know or not.   
Jeff even almost forgot to pick up a mail drop because he forgot which address he wrote me to send it to.  So the guidebooks help you get boxes ready in time - which is especially important as they get past 1,000 or so miles, because by then, instead of two days, even a priority box may take five or six days and many P.O.'s are closed on Saturdays and Sundays and one at least that I know of has been closed permanently.  Jeff knows these drops from his guide book, but it helps if you have the mail box ready.  I usually have most of it ready, maybe three ahead of time, but there are last minute perishables and surprises I add at the end.

I wish I'd kept count of how many drop boxes we've mailed but  I think it might be around ten at this point, at first one every five days since that's all his pack would hold, but then when  Jeff figured out the towns where he'd enjoy a big meal, we averaged one a week, and now it's slowed down a bit since so many mail angels have been sending him packages - that's a whole new post to be written. 

Feel free to ask any questions.  Hopefully some of these tips will help you if you're a family or friend support of a 2013 thru-hiker and I wish you all the best experience ever.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Loner in Vermont- only 3 states to go

Loner is now in Vermont or maybe heading close to New Hampshire.  He posted about 6 videos earlier this week, (I think Monday or Tuesday and has more to come.  This batch of videos includes Mnt. Greylock, some beautiful scenery, skateboarding, a yellow submarine, cars and critters (including moose - who knew moose were in Vermont?),  a firetower with 360 views of 5 states and a techie review on indie film making on the trail, even though Loner admits he's not much of a computer geek, but loves film making.  While on the trail he's not using all of his regular film making programs, but one that doesn't take as long to make basic films since his internet usage is so limited.  
I've discovered so many amazing aspects of Loner's AT trip, from the fact that he's walking 2,184 miles of the trail and a good bit more with trips into town and to water sources and campsites, how wonderful, loyal and generous all his You Tube viewers have been. ( I can't tell you how much your words have helped him keep going and your support has overwhelmed him), how beautiful and wild our country is, and how much it needs our help to stay this way.  I'm sure all family members of AT hikers and support systems and Trail angels  have come to feel a part of the AT community, this traveling town that goes for miles and miles - this spirit that soars with the falcons, hawks, owls and eagles, and the physical and emotional ups and downs of such a massive undertaking.
I hope that his viewers and friends can experience this as well.  I feel like I've been living with a blindfold on for most of my life, not even knowing a trail like the AT was in our country until Jeff announced he was going to hike it last October.  I didn't have a clue what it involved in planning, tactics and the physical challenge until watching his videos.  I thought of sort of it as a vacation type of hike, not really absorbing the 5 1/2  months and not aware of the number of mountains and that his mileage will add up to I think its 15 or 16 Mnt. Everests and New Hampshire itself adds up to one all by itself.
By the time he reaches Katadhin, he'll walk close to 5 million steps (not counting the side trips) on trails maintained by over 6,000 trail maintaineers, 90% of them being volunteers!
Something happens and changes everyone once they become connected with the AT - a total change of values, priorities and perspective of the world once you see what is doable, possible and valuable once you dream it and follow your dream.  I'm so glad that Loner let us follow him on his dream, it gives me courage to pursue mine and pride in seeing him dedicated to his.