Saturday, February 27, 2021

Day Zero


Got our start today on the AT Approach trail.  Although it’s not an official part of the AT, the 8.8 mile approach trail is were the majority of thru hikers make their start.  It’s located at Amicalola Falls State Park, which is easier to drive to than the “official” Springer mountain trail head.

Rick, Carolyn and I left Pensacola this morning at 8 am, following a beautiful funeral service yesterday for Carolyn’s mom Carol Carmichael.  With the time change we arrived at Amicalola at 3:30.  We signed in and officially became 2021 Appalachian Trail thru hikers number 317 and 318.  316 hikers are on the way to Maine ahead of us.  Weighed my pack at the official pack scale and came in at 38 1/2 lbs, heavier than I wanted, but about where I expected to be.  I’m sure I’ll lighten the load as I go, but t for now, I have everything I think I need.

After signing in and getting a brief orientation from the ranger, we headed for the arch for pictures.  The iconic arch shot is a staple of the thru hike experience, and one we had to indulge in.  Carolyn took the shots and then we are ready to go.  I said my goodbyes to Carolyn for the next couple of months when she’ll join me in Virginia for a week hiking with us.

Following the pictures, we headed off at around 4pm, a late in the day start, but allowing us to get a little aye down the trail and save on a hotel.  First up are the 605 steel stairs that run up the side of Amicalola Falls.  A rough way to start the hike, but we managed to get. To the top and on up the trail out of the park.

We hiked until about 5:30, stopping about 2.3 miles up the trail for the night.  Since this is not part of the “official” AT, these miles don’t count toward the 2193.1 miles of the AT, hence Day Zero of the hike.
We set up camp, cooked dinner, hung our bear bags, and hit the tents at about 7:30.

Tomorrow we will head on to Springer Mountain and should arrive about lunchtime.  From there, the official hike begins.

Til next time.

Saturday, February 20, 2021

Last (??) Work up hike

With plans pushed back a week, I though it prudent to get in one more significant hike before leaving for the A.T.    I chose the Croom tract up near Leesburg and headed up there early this morning.

Arriving at Tucker Hill recreation area around 8am, I donned my fully loaded pack, weighing in at 37 lbs (24 lb base weight plus food, water, and fuel).  Setting off on the south C loop, it was 45 degrees as I left the parking lot.  Although a little brisk, I didn’t break out any gloves or a jacket, and was perfectly comfortable after about 10 minutes of hiking.

This trail is about as close to AT conditions I have in central Florida, with rolling hills and some relatively steep up and downs.  Today, I followed the combined C, B, and A loops for a total of 14.5 miles.  Per my Garmin tracker, I completed the 14.5 miles in 4 hours and 51 minutes at an average pace of just  over 20 minute miles.  This included two stops to talk with other hikers.  One of these was a guy who did his AT thruhike in 2003.  Fascinating insights and very encouraging comments.  

I saw one deer and what I think was a hawk, although I didn’t get close enough to be sure.  It was apparent that there had been a controlled burn recently, as must of the underbrush was blackened and the ground was relatively barren.  Still, the rolling hills and expansive views were beautiful.

As I returned to the parking lot, I felt pretty good, and have a renewed confidence in my preparation, stamina, and gear choices.  I believe I’m as dialed in as much as I can be.  I’ll continue to walk daily for the next week as opportunities avail themselves, and look forward to starting out 2/28 or 3/1.  More to follow once I start out.   

Stay tuned.

Thursday, February 18, 2021

Sad News


I wanted to share the sad news of the passing of my mother in law, Carol Carmichael, who passed away on Tuesday.  She is survived by 9 grown children and their spouses, along with scores of grandchildren and great grandchildren who all loved her greatly.  The funeral is next Friday, 2/26.

I will be postponing my hike for a week, now departing on 3/1.

See you then.

Wednesday, February 3, 2021


Well I've done it.  My last day of work was Friday, and I'm now fully committed to making this trek.  Final(??) workup hike took place yesterday.  Carolyn and I spent my birthday hiking 14 miles at Lake Louisa State Park near Clermont.  Beautiful park and perfect hiking weather (50's for most of the hike).  We started out early and drove to the equestrian entrance at the northwest section of the park, where we started out.  I had chosen this particular park (I'd hiked it before) both for the distance available, and for the varied terrain and elevations.  Although Florida doesn't offer a lot of hills, this park had several gradual inclines that allowed for some semblance of altitude variation.   

Both of us were carrying pretty much what we plan to carry when hiking.  Carolyn is planning on joining me to hike for about a week in Virginia in the Shenandoah National Park.  My pack was loaded down with all of the anticipated equipment I plan to carry, plus 5 days of food.

After a couple of hours hiking, we stopped at a primitive campsite and set up camp.  This included erecting the tent, filtering water out of the creek, cooking a hot meal, and hanging the bear bag (using the PCT method).  Pictured is the camp as we set it up.

After a leisurely lunch, we packed everything up, and headed back onto the trail.  The 14 mile loop around the park is mostly designed for horse back riding, meaning we had to be very careful where we stepped.  It was also open in many parts, allowing for little overhead coverage. Not necessarily a problem for a winter hike, but would be grueling in the mid-summer Florida heat.

We made a couple of additional water/rest stops to enjoy the scenery, also stopping for some wild oranges at one point, and to watch two deer jump a fence at another point.  Overall, the hike took about 6 hours, with a little over 4 1/2 hours of actual hiking, averaging 3.1 miles per hour when hiking and 2.2 mph overall (including stops).

My fully loaded pack was at 37 lbs (25 lbs base weight plus food, water and fuel).  No issues at all with the weight or fatigue.  No anticipated changes to my gear based on this hike.  I was able to use my thin layer gloves in the morning, when the temps were still in the mid 40s, and they were sufficient for keeping my hands warm.  No additional layers beyond my standard hiking attire used, so with my additional layers for the AT (thermals, merino wool under shirt (birthday gift from Carolyn), fleece jacket and puffy jacket), I expect to be fine for the sub freezing temperatures anticipated at times on the AT.  I also have my wool stocking cap, extra socks, waterproof outer gloves, and a neck gaiter to address the cold weather.    

The one item I was missing was a Merino wool undershirt, which Carolyn gave me for my birthday, and my daughter Amanda emblazoned with a Gator logo and my Waymaker trail name.  All clothing layers now consist of Merino wool underwear, tshirt, and socks, along with the synthetic pants and shirt (no cotton anywhere). 

Tonight, I'm sleeping in my tent in my back yard one more time, as the temperature is supposed to drop to the mid-30s.  Assuming that if I can sleep warmly and comfortably at that temp, I should be fine to survive when the temps drop below freezing.   The plan is to get off of the trail for a day or two if a blizzard or bad storm hits, and hole up in the nearest trail town.  Hopefully that doesn't happen too much, as that can be a budget killer.

I do want to thank all who have already pledged to the Family Promise fundraiser based on miles I hike.  I wanted to reiterate that every dollar will go to Family Promise.  My hike is fully funded by hard earned savings, and no outside fundraising dollars will be used by me.  If you still want to participate in the pennies per mile pledge, please contact Chris McCallister at 

I will start posting my hike to this blog upon departing Amicalola Falls State Park on Monday, 2/22, with updates weekly at minimum.   See you on the trail!

2/4 Update - Spent the night in my tent in the backyard last night.  Temps dropped to 35, but I was toasty warm and comfortable all night.  Final check complete.  There was frost on my tent when I woke up this morning, so that will be interesting trying to pack up and go while on the trail.  We'll see how it goes.

Day 148, Sunday July 25, 2021

                   Zero day at Hikers Welcome hostel As planned, we took today as a zero, waiting out the thunderstorms and letting our bodi...