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.

White Blaze, Movies and pilgrimages

While Lomer climbs firetowers and mountains, hikes in the rain, strolls through small New England towns, I surf the internet looking for anything AT related, watch as many AT movies as I can get my hands on , read books on the AT, write to AT moms and  work on the journal I'm making for him of his journey
)\(which is now five books long) but the first place to check is White Blaze.  This is the ultimate  go to website for hikers of all kinds, day hikers, section, hikers, thru-hikers, east coast hikers, midwest hikers, west coast hikers. And there's tons of information on it for AT thru-hikers by other long distance hikers.  You can become a member of the site as a hiker, support person for a hiker, trail maintainer, trail angel, AT-related business owner and more.  I'd advise anyone involved with the AT to join.
I've used it for many reasons and the daily posts cover a variety of issues from pre-hike reviews and experiences with gear, to daily issues of concern for hikers, such as availability of water, bear sightings, changes in the trail due to weather, weather warnings, finding lost hikers and dogs.  I know Loner has gone to White Blaze for advice a number of times,  before he left for the trail and  while actually on the trail.
As a family member and support person, I check it almost everyday.
I'll pass along info I think Jeff needs such as the recent bear sighting on Mt. Stratton, where they don't usually have bears and this one was strong enough to tear part of a door off of one of the park's buildings while it was looking for food. Unfortunately, Jeff got my email after he'd climbed Mt. Stratton, but I wasn't sure exactly where he was at the time.  At least twice a month, I'll pass along news I find on White Blaze and couldn't find easily anywhere else.  
White Blaze has members who've been hikers for years and they post such valuable information they've probably saved a number of lives.  I've seen them locate hikers this year through White Blaze, from folks who've been lost to hikers just trying to find they're hiking mates.
They have a section where you can write a profile, post a journal entry, learn from other pages, post on a forum, post photos and so much more.  I could not stay sane during Loner's hike without White Blaze. 
One of the things I've discovered that has helped me enjoy Loner's journey, instead of worry all the time, is their list of best movies on the AT.  I'd seen 2,000 Miles to Maine with Loner at Christmas  before he left, but discovered Trek and the brilliant National Geographic piece on the Appalachain Trail after he left. I haven't seen the Southbounders yet or any of the indi films made by Squatch but hopefully I'll get them in the future.   Another film I loved which is not about the AT is The Way, starring Martin Sheen and directed and featuring his son, Emillio Estevez. This movie was filmed in Spain  of the El Camino and is a highly emotional journey of this 500 miler Pilgrimage.  I may have written a little about it before but will try and do a proper review later. Each of these movies offer very different views of the Appalachian trail or long distance hiking.  The people and hiker-focused 2,000 Miles to Maine is funny, was a little scary for me the first time and candid. I've just recently found the  National Geo documentary: Appalachian Trail, which I loved.  Wow, it totally changed my viewpoint of the trail from the ground and especially from within the trees. While it does follow to four or five hikers on various sections, the focus is on the grand natural ecosystem which is the trail, punching it up with stunning and mind-blowing aerial shots not seen in any other films.  These shots vividly put the trail in such a different perspective - hikers and viewers will come to see what an amazing trip they've taken once they see the magnificence of the ridge lines and peaks they trudged and climbed and the astonishing amount of wilderness they've witnessed.  Shots of some of the solo hikers on mountain tops makes one see how very small they are in comparison with the task they've undertaken.  Until you see these shots no hiker or viewer can really grasp what the 2,000 milers have accomplished.
Trek follows four hikers whose intent is to stay together through the trail, it's an up close and personal approach, but also shows some of the really important parts of the trail for those who will be hiking it and how these four guys managed on a daily level of getting up and hiking. Also some of the difficulties hikers can face even in town.  They are a good group of guys to follow and get to know, and we face some of the hardships they have to deal with. 

Friday, August 3, 2012

Loner and Fatherman video

As I mentioned in an earlier post, Fatherman, who is an AT thru-hiker who starter hiking from Georgia in March is someone Loner has admired since before he starter his own hike.  Jeff learned a lot and was inspired by Fatherman's videos and it only took them 5 months to finally meet up on the trail in Kent, CT.  Fatherman has now posted his video of this memorable meeting outside of the laundromat - how fitting.
And check out Fatherman's other videos - they're always interesting, always different as each hiker Hikes Their Own Hikes. 

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Loner at 1500 miles in Massachusetts

Yesterday, August 1st,  I heard from Loner and he had reached the state where he was born 40 years ago: Massachusetts. He was born in a small lakeside town, called Dracut, Mass, which at one time was a sort of holiday spot where we lived across the street from a state park. The remnants of park rides and food stands were still scattered around the lake when we lived there.We lived in two different houses one a sort of log vacation cabin within steps and with a view of the lake in winter, and the second house, which was a cottage a little further out, but an easy minute or two walking distance.  So I know his time in Mass. will bring back lots of memories, ice skating on the lake, watching cars drive figure eights on the ice on the lake in the winter, Going into the very dark nightclub turned into a cocoa stand during the day to warm up, hunting for turtles and frogs.  We had a family of large pheasants living in our backyard and snapping turtles living in the marsh right behind the yard. That's where Jeff got to enjoy racing, going with his great grandpa, grandpa, who were both race car drives to watch his dad do demolition derbies.  We took Jeff with earplugs form the textile mill where both his dad and I worked when Jeff was just six months old.  You'll see some racing in the new videos he's posted and some posh cars - racing Porsches and a Viper among them!
We never lived in the city when Loner was young, although Lowell, a large textile center was close and where I lived before I got married.  So Jeff doesn't love city life as much as I do.  He's always been one to consider the outdoors his home and nature sacred.  He hits is first textile town not long after he enters Mass.  and goes through Dalton and Great Barrington and you can see the difference in Mass. towns.  He says it really feels like the New England he knows and the mountains are beautiful.  In one video there's a sign with a snowmobile on it and boy that brought back all kinds of memories for me.  I'd totally forgotten they existed, after leaving 30 years in South Carolina, but Loner's dad owned one and it was just the way of the world up there once the snow reached 3 and 4 feet starting in October and not melting until April so storm just dumped more snow after storm until the plowed hills turn into mountains taller than a story or two building. We'd have two or three blizzards a year, but the rest of the days kids went to school unless the snow was over a foot or so, here, the schools close if they just predict snow!
Loner talks about some of the people he's meeting on the trail, including Socks from Germany, a woman who has hiked all over the world and does motor cycle rallies all over Europe; Radio, who got Lyme Disease but is still on the trail. Jeff  said its been sad to see a lot of people leave at the 1500 mile mark including Union Jill from the UK whose also a power lifter and Jeff said a lot of other people left, just got bored or tired of it and left- with only 600 miles left to Katadhin. It's too bad and sad to see them leave when they're so close. 
He also gave shout outs to some of his You Tube friends and supporters: Kath (who hopes to hike the AT next year and Jeanine, another arrowhead hunter.
gives some assistance to the cars in the pits at the Porsche race. Enjoy the 4 or 5 new videos on his Loner2012AT Video Blog 

Rayo reaches Katadhin!

And for some more great news, one of the other thru-hikers I've been following is Rayo.
 His mother, Patti and I have become good friends and she has been a  caring and supportive friend during our son's journeys. Rayo started off at Springer Mtn. in Georgia on March 16th and he just made it to Katadhin as the 100th thru-hiker to walk all 2,184 miles this year!
  I've been following Rayo's blog, Following Blazes,  which often has great photos and a rundown of his journey everyday.  And he's a determined guy who has reached his goal of being in the first 100 to reach the end of the trail in Maine!  And he did it!