My Uncle Bob and a wildfire

I learned two things yesterday morning – my dear Uncle Bob had passed away in Maine, and a fast moving wildfire in Tennessee was headed east, so the AT would be closed to foot traffic for a few days. You can see the fire here in a photo I took two days ago – it was clearly headed in the same direction that I was:


Thanks to the kindness of Steve and Ann at the Roan Mountain B&B, I’ve found a way to get a rental car, and drive three hours to my parent’s place in high point, NC. We’ll fly up to Boston on Thursday to attend my uncle’s funeral in York, Maine.

Hope to be back on the ? charred trail early next week. 

Remarkably, it was announced today that the trail section I was planning to hike on today will be closed for 5 days, the exact duration of time I’ll be gone.





Leave no trace

With lots of people on the trail, it’s very important to minimize the impact of each individual. It’s not easy, but here is what ATC recommends:
I said goodbye to North Carolina today: 


Me and “conductor” – he got his trail name because he does not like spiders and waves his poles up and down in front of him when He’s in spider web territory, an act that resembles orchestra conducting.

Nature shots of the day:

“Earl Grey” about to launch in to the largest burger I’ve ever seen

He washed it down with a milk shake and had a big bowl of ice cream for dessert. I was impressed. It’s called trail hunger and it’s hard to satisfy.


The white blaze

The Appalachian Trail is marked by white blazes (rectangles) on trees or rocks or posts. Most are just single blazes. 

If there is potential confusion ahead and you are supposed to go straight, you will see two blazes – one on top of the other – it usually means “pay attention “. 

If the trail takes a sharp turn, there are two blazes but they are offset – you turn in the direction of the topmost blaze. 

Since the blazes are white going northbound and white going southbound, it’s always a good idea to make sure I start the day headed north ­čÖé

Uncle Johnny’s

Staying at Uncle Johnny’s hostel on the Nolichucky River near Erwin tonight:


Rented a bike for $2 and rode into town to do laundry and resupply with food. When we got back we met Chris West who was on the AT as part of a walk across the country from Newport, NC to Newport, OR. You can check out his story at He brought some food to the hostel for the thru hikers

Anybody know this flower?


Eggs and hash browns

Yesterday morning, at a spot where the AT was crossing under interstate 26 between Erwin, TN and Asheville, NC, I came across a sign that pointed up a hill toward a cemetery, announcing a trail magic event. There, a trail angel named Paul Thrailkill “Silent Paul” was cooking up eggs and hash browns for all thru hikers. He does so for 10 days each year. Paul had thru hiked in 2007. He had recently retired from the Washington, DC area and relocated to Asheville, NC. He had a career as a stone mason and had spent 19 years building the National Cathedral in DC. He was so humble about his remarkable professional work.

I told him that I might like to do some trail angel work some day. He advised me to be careful, noting that the prior year he had been fined by officials from the state of NC for preparing food without proper licensure on state land. So this year he moved his operation to private land (this private cemetery), clearing it with the landowners. There is something so heartwarming about his persistent efforts to help others. Let’s  hear it for Silent Paul!!!


Drying out

Got drenched with rain last night and today – my tent kept me dry but I had to pack it up this morning in the rain. Fortunately it was warm today as I hiked – then the sun came out at 5 pm and I quickly hung out my wet stuff to dry – now I’m all warm and dry in my tent. The hiking today was magical with fog and mist and carpets of wildflowers.


Pileated woodpecker

One of the finest creatures in the eastern forest is the pileated woodpecker. It is large and has a bright red crest – it is the woodpecker that Woody the WP is modeled after. It is secretive but I’ve seen it on several occasions. Yesterday I saw one excavating an old log lying on the ground. It had attracted a little fan club including a squirrel, a robin, and a smaller hairy woodpecker who were,apparently, interested in examining the leftovers.

Here’s the kind of work it does on dead trees. 


Turning the corner 

Second day in my new insoles and I think the shin splints are improving – I can’t tell you how exciting that is!!

Not only that ,I came across one of my favorite trees today:

The shagbark hickory – can’t miss it!!

Back in the woods

Left Hot Springs today after consulting with the local outfitter about my pack, my pack weight, and my chances of shaking the shin splints – my pack weighed 41 pounds with 12 pounds of food and 3 pounds of water – he advised me to get the weight down to 30 – so I’ll be eating with a passion for the next couple days – when it warms up soon,I’ll get rid of some cold weather gear (the problem is that it’s supposed to go down to 20 degrees tonight).

So I’m walking slow and taking it all in.