AT Thru-Hike Day 54

Rice Fields Shelter (3,354 feet) mile 644.2 to Big Stony Creek Road (2,461 feet) mile 659.1 for a 14.9 mile day! We ascended 2,294 feet and descended 3,151 feet!

Today was a surprisingly tough day. There wasn’t really any major climbs that went on for long but there were lots of rocks, big ones, little ones, medium size ones, some moved, some stayed still, while others were just there to trip you or poke you in the feet. There was a lot of down hill though, and these two things in a day cause major pain in my feet. Today I ordered a new pair of shoes, it is probably beyond time, but, it’s done. I went with a different brand all together to see how their design helps my feet. I’m being told by many folks that the Hoka Speed Goat is a great shoes that helps lessen the work in the calves. Once I get these feet figured out, watch out!

I woke up this morning and finished yesterday’s blog and posted it while I still had decent service. I just knew when I went down off this ridge that I would lose service, and sure enough, I did! This was the view this morning when I unzipped my tent.

Today, we passed a cell phone tower, which would explain the cell signal! We also passed a power transmission tower, and attached to one of them was a weather station and a camera, which I assume was to show pictures of the sky from the “sky cam”.

This section has been very dry, no creek crossings to get water from, nor are there any springs. Around 6 miles or so into the hike today we finally found a spring, it was flowing at about 1 liter per 2 minutes. Another thing I have learned out here on the AT, patience.! Sometimes things don’t happen quickly, well, actually, things never happen quickly! Things aren’t always the same out here either, I mean, yesterday it took us eight and a half hours to do 15 miles, some days we can do that in 6 hours.

I had to explain this to my buddy Tom who stopped by on his way back to Charlotte from New York. It was great to see him after two months! He met us at a road crossing and brought us into town so we could sit down and eat as much food as we could instead of eating a pouch of dehydrated food, as good as those are, it was great to get some of the best BBQ I have ever had in Pembroke, Va., at Bluegrass Barbecue! Tom had been in New York for six weeks working, which he has done this time of year for the past few years.

Thanks again, Tom, for taking time out of your drive to sit with, and be seen with, some stinky hikers and eat!

Oh, and if you’re ever in Pembroke, Va. or anywhere near it for that matter, do yourself a favor and stop in at Bluegrass BBQ!!

Week one on trail

This one is long, but not totally as complete as i would like. I had phone issues and lost pictures and power so some of the days journaling couldn’t happen. So, you will see around day 4 it got shorter, now you know why. Question for you readers, leave a comment as to layout of this. Do you want this much info? Do you want other info? Let me know in the comments.

Well, 4.3.21 has now come and gone! I have now been on trail for 6 days, well, currently sitting in a Fairfield Inn in Helen, Ga. The first day started off great! Woke up and went down for breakfast at Amicalola Falls Lodge, not a very good buffet, but, it was food so I ate! We went from there down to the arch at the visitor center at Amicalola Falls to sign in and get our starting number. I am number 1501 and my packed weighed 24 pounds without my 2 liters of water, final destination, I put, Katahdin! From here, we all, Stuart, my girlfriend Suzann, Kelly (my hiking partner), James (Kelly’s husband), and my youngest son Elijah, loaded into the truck and headed up to Springer mountain to start the adventure of a lifetime. This was a change in the original plan, originally we were going to start at the arch and hike up the approach trail, but we decided to save our legs, lungs, feet and bodies and not attempt this 8.8 mile, 3,137.1 foot ascent on the first day, since, of course, this trail was not a white blazed Appalachian Trail.

We arrived at Springer Mountain parking area, and all hiked South for 1 mile following the white blazes to the plaque on Springer Mountain. After taking the obligatory pictures in front of the plaque and signing the trail log, we hiked the 1 mile back to the parking area, where we began our teary goodbyes. It is hard walking away from your youngest son and your girlfriend knowing you won’t see them everyday like normal. All in all, we did pretty well with the goodbyes and they didn’t last long, knowing I would see them again in 2 weeks in Franklin, NC made it a little easier.

Day 1: Mile 0 to Mile 8.1 where we stayed the night at Hawk Mountain Shelter, but we didn’t stay in the shelter. We are staying away from shelters for the most part because of the mice and rat problems that are around them and the overall uncleanliness of the whole shelter idea. We descended 1,800 feet and ascended 1,094 feet for a 350 feet per mile grade. As a whole, it was a good day, there were no really difficult climbs nor were there any major muscle pains or aches. 🙂 With the first day came our first trail magic, at mile 1, it was a AT greeter just welcoming thru hikers and section hikers to the trail.

We hiked a few miles and then Tim came up behind us. Tim is out here as hikingsober, he is celebrating two years of sobriety and wants to do this to show others what is possible in sobriety. I think he wants to have the trail name, “soberhagen” because he is sober and dips Copenhagen! Haha
We continued on and came to a white truck sitting by a road, on this truck was a signs that read, “trail magic” with and arrow pointing down the road. It was one scary site and Kelly and I both agreed we shouldn’t go down there. We started back down the trail but stopped as I read Guthook and the notes saying how great the trail magic was, so, we went for it, and it was a good bunch of trail magic for sure.
We continued on for about 1.5 miles to Hawk Mountain shelter. Here, we setup our tent, cooked our food and chatted with other hikers. By 7:00 I was in my quilt all bundled up. Now to figure out how to stay warm in here! So long for now!

Day 2: Mile 8.1 to Mile 16.9 for a day total of 8.8 miles. Ascended 2,142 feet and descended 2,454 feet for a 505 feet per mile grade. Today, we avoided the shelter all together, when we arrived at the shelter, it was too early to stop and it was already a little crowded. Today, we ran into Tim again and “soberhagen” has in fact stuck as his trail name, and he seemed pretty excited with the name. We stayed at Gooch Gap tonight and met Shawn and his Lab Jake, they were hiking south bound, just for a few days. Just as we were getting into out sleeping bags to go to sleep, bedtime on trail is 8:30ish, a car drove up the forest road and asked if any of us wanted water, and then if we had any trash that we wanted to get rid of. One thing that I have learned on trail is that the rumors were true and part of the reason I chose to do this hike.

Day3: Mile 16.9- 26.2 for a day total of 9.3 mile. Ascended 2,215 feet and descended 1,656 feet for a 404 feet per mile grade. When we were at the first trail magic, by a cemetery, we met a gentleman called, Papa Smurf, white hair with a white beard and round face, who told us he may see us again at Woody Gap. Around noon we can down the short hill into Woody Gap, we didn’t see Papa Smurf, but we did see “the bus”. “The bus”, belongs to the Twelve Tribes, which, as it was explained by a gentlemen there serving, is a religious organization that follows the pattern of the early church written in Acts 2:44 and 4:32, sharing all things in common. For many years this group has provided trail magic to the “pilgrims” who have chose to make this journey north to Katahdin. The group provided lentil stew, a maté tea, which is a highly caffeinated tea leaf that is used in South America in place of coffee by some, and maté trail bars. We continued north from here up and over a few nice climbs to a part of the trail called, Jarrard Gap. Jarrard Gap is the last place one can camp without a bear canister between March 1 and June 1 until Neel Gap, and being that we have no bear canister and didn’t want to hike the 15 miles to Neel Gap, we stayed at Jarrard Gap! Saw our first rattle snake on trail, right in the middle of the trail, today, and it was a pretty good size. Around 2.5-3 feet long with a more rattlers than my boys crib when they were babies!

Day 4 mile 26.2 to mile 35 for a day total of 8.8 miles for the day. Ascended 2,586 feet and descended 2,341 feet, for a grade of 539 feet per mile. Today was the day, today we would climb Blood Mountain and then descend it into Neel Gap! Blood mountain is the highest peak on the AT in the Georgia section and the fourth highest peak in Georgia. Blood Mountain and nearby Slaughter creek, aptly named for a battle that is said to have taken place between the Creek and Cherokee Indians, where, the story goes, the battle was so brutal, the mountain ran red with blood. Coming into Neel Gap, named after a government surveyor, W.R. Neel, one sees the stone building with and arch off to the left side of the building. It is through this arch that an AT Thru-hiker must walk. Fun fact, this is the only man made structure the Appalachian Trail goes through. Towering above the Mountain Crossing Outfitters is an old tree, dangling from this tree are hiking boots and shoes of all shapes and sizes. The story goes, hikers attempting to reach Maine, who get beat down by Sassafras Mountain and Blood Mountain, throw there shoes up into the tree giving up. To me, some of those boots look too perfectly placed, too old, with some really long strings to fit that story, nonetheless, that’s the story and we will go along.

Day 5 mile 35 to mile 44.1 for a 9.1 mile day. We ascended 1,994 feet and descended 2,384 feet, for a grade of 489 feet per mile.

Day 6 was mile 44.1 to mile 52.5 for an 8.4 mile day. We ascended 1,534 feet and descended 1,892 feet, for a grade of 408 feet per mile. At mile 44.1 we setup tents in Poplar Stamp Gap. Mile 52.5 we ended that Thursday hike at Unicoi Gap where we waited for Suzanna to come pick us up. We were staying in town for the weekend and the hike over to the next highway was too far to do in one day so we decided to stay a extra night in town. We chose to go east of the trail into Helen, Ga. instead of west to Hiawasee, Ga.

Short but sweet

It’s currently 10:26 PM on Friday April 2, 2021. I just got off of the table after being adjusted by my stepmom. She is a chiropractor that uses Applied Kinesiology to find the parts of the body that can remove pain or tight muscles in another area of the body. Honesty, it’s a little crazy, but, I’m not complaining! After a lot of work on my left foot, it got to a point where I could feel it in my lower back, were talking about my foot, ok. So, she moved up to my L5, lumbar 5 and put her arthrostim device there and let it “jack hammer” on the L5, once I heard the “jack hammering” release I could feel the pain go away in my foot. The body is so amazing.

So, rewind to 6:00 pm, it was me, my girlfriend , and my youngest son, standing at the check in counter, and I got a tap on my shoulder. It was my dad and stepmom coming to see me off. I thought they were going to come April 3, 2021, launch day but they showed up today! Fast forward to after sunset,

While I was getting that adjustment, my sister and her family walked in! I was not supposed to see them until, Franklin, NC, mile 110. Needless to say, today has been a good day seeing family before taking off tomorrow morning.

Alright friends, after three years of thinking about doing this hike and a few girlfriends that didn’t think it was a smart thing to do,nor would support it, it’s time for me to launch, and with an awesome girlfriend that is one hundred percent supporting me!

Food for thought, as I sit with 30 days left.

As I sat down to write this post I checked a message on my Facebook page from a high school friend back in Lake Charles, La, Eliot, and it was asking about what all was in my bag so he could get ideas for future hiking and camping trips. Well, it just so happens, my last post was about “whats in my backpack”. After I shared the post with him he told me, same as many other folks, he was looking forward to following along on the adventure. Though this was not originally what I was going to post about, I thought I would include a short bit about my thoughts and then I would share with you what I am carrying in my food bag.

So, first off

To all of those out there that are looking forward to following along on this journey, thank you! I never thought that folks would enjoy following along with a guy who grew up in the low, flatland of Sulphur, Louisiana, walk for 2,193.1 miles up mountains and down valleys for 6 months.


Although I am glad that there are folks looking forward to following along, it is not for you or them that I am doing this hike. I am doing this hike because I have never in my life set out to do anything, to have any goals, to make a difference in any way. I have lived a life full of fear, fear of many things. I played baseball when I was younger, I could have been better, but I was afraid. I was afraid to catch a ground ball because, God forbid, what if it hit me. I played the piano and as much as I fought with mom about practice and playing, I still enjoyed it and wished I had continued, but that one parent that laughed out loud when the piece I was going to play was announced, I botched the whole piece and didn’t really care to play much after. I had absolutely no intention of going to college after high school, many reasons, my dad owned a successful mapping company that I could work for, my English teacher in 10th grade said I wouldn’t make it through college. I could go on with many others, but I don’t want to loose you in all of this.

The times of overcoming:

Oh, 2004 I graduated from UNC Charlotte with a 3.7 GPA and made the deans list one year. 🤪🤪🤪

Until last summer, I had never spent the night in a tent outside! I always had a fear of what was going to happen to me out there, what sort of animal was going to eat me! I have since gotten over that and have camped outside many times and even did a 3 day backpacking trip all alone. Yay me! I was a shy bashful kid, like 75% of the population, I had Glossophobia, the fear of public speaking. For 15 years, starting around 1999, I performed in live theatre, even at one point playing a roll with 4 other actors, where I played 5 characters in one show!

So, WHY am I hiking the AT?

  1. To learn to overcome and embrace a challenge
  2. To see that I can overcome fear and accomplish what I set out to do even if its waaaaaaaay bigger than me
  3. To create a better Stuart
  4. To meet God in the wilderness
  5. The people/community
  6. To see that I can live life with less
  7. Though a late in life one… it checks a box on the bucket list.
  8. To share the beauty of God’s creation from a different perspective with those around me.

I am editing this into the post because it is too good not to mention as another why. I was going to talk about this at a later time, but, no time like the present. My friend Amy, called me this week to ask me if I could do something for her BFF. You see, several years ago Lucy’s husband, Derren, passed away with brain cancer, he had always wanted to hike the Appalachian Trail. She wanted to know if I would be willing to carry a golf ball with his name on it that she had made for his funeral. It was not a request to carry it all the way to Katadhin, but, I insisted on carrying that golf ball and his memory, even though I did not know him, all the way to the end!

What if I want to quit?

  1. Remember that, while I was acting on stage, I used my fears and nervousness to make me better.
  2. Remember that not many people my age get the chance to drop it all and set out to hike for 2,193.1 miles
  3. As much as I say this isn’t being done for the reader, I have people living vicariously through me and wanting me to go on. That fact is, I have told many people about this and have enjoyed the conversations it has led to and the wow! on their faces and I will push on because of them.
  4. There have been many situations in life that I have felt like giving up on but I didn’t and I’m still here and better for not giving up.
  5. I read on a post and will keep this with me, “…that deep down the temporary satisfaction of stopping would not be able to compete with the satisfaction of completing the hike.” -Heather “Anish” Anderson (Alexa Bonsai Shapiro 2019: Overcoming the Desire to Quit During a Thru-Hike.
  6. I don’t want to live with the regret.
  7. I have bought all of this dehydrated food and don’t want to have to sit at home and eat it all! My girlfriend would probably not like date nights to included dehydrated backpacking meals, as good as they may be! 🙂
  8. See edit portion above this section. 🙂

Okay, so, I have went on about this more than was originally intended. Never knew how things would just start flowing if I sat down to write. I am going to push off what is in my food bag until next week.

What’s on my back!?

Howdy folks! I hope that your 2021 is off to a great start!
I thought, while I’m sitting here at 31,000 feet riding in a plane to Orlando, I’m going to write a blog post. It’s been a while so, here we go.
This is just a quick run down of what I am carrying on my thru-hike of the Appalachian Trial. What I have put together so far brings my base weight to 11 pounds 4 ounces. My current plan is to do mail drops with various dehydrated meals. Some of the ones I have tried and really like are, Evergreen Adventure Food, Good to-Go, Greenbelly Meal Bars, and Standard Process Possible bars.

The mail drop plan is a slow process and I will decide as I go along whether or not I want to continue this through the entire adventure. I have decided to do the mail drops in order to maintain eating as healthy as possible while on trail. I just can’t bring myself to eat ramen and pepperoni with cheese on tortillas the whole time. My body just will not like that at all, its taken me a while to figure out what I can and cant it and how much it will affect my body. Congestion and inflammation are the biggest things, as well as just over all low energy. Low energy is not what I need for a 6 month hike north!

I am sure there are a few small things I might be leaving out of this list but not many.

Nemo 2PShelter System2 person tent138.5ounce
FootPrintShelter SystemNemo 2P FootPrint16.9ounce
MSR/NEMOShelter SystemTent Stakes1177gram
FuelCook SystemFuel for cooking 113.4ounce
BRS 3000-TCook SystemBRS ultralight cook stove10.9ounce
PotCook SystemTOAKS Titanium 75013.6ounce
SpoonCook SystemTOAKS Titanium Long Spork10.65ounce
LighterCook SystemBIC Mini10.5ounce
UGQSleep SystemBandit top quilt122ounce
Big Agnes PadSleep SystemInsulated AXL114ounce
Big Agnes PumphouseSleep SystemSleep Pad Inflator/stuff sack 12.9ounce
Sea to SummitSleep SystemAeros Ultralight Pillow12.1ounce
ULA CircuitBackpack SetupBackpack141ounce
ZPacksBackpack SetupPack Liner11.8ounce
Garmin Misc InReach Mini13.5ounce
KatadynMisc BeFree 3L Water Filtration13.5ounce
Smart Water BottleMisc Empty Smart Water Bottle11.2ounce
Pack Rain CoverMisc ULA Rain Cover13ounce
Trekking PolesMisc Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork117ounce
BatteryMisc ANKER PowerCore Essential 20000112.2ounce
Rain JacketWearablesOutdoor Research Helium II16.4ounce
SocksWearablesDarn Tough113gram
SocksWearablesDarn Tough113gram
Winter PantsWearablesColumbia Silver Stretch Conv. Pants10gram
Camp ShoesWearablesEarth Runner Circadian Lifestyle111.8ounce
ShoesWearablesAltra Olympus 4111.6ounce
-33 leggingsWearablesKANCAMAGUS19.6ounce
ArcteryxWearablesCerium LT110.8ounce