I have walked 108 miles thru the SNP in less than 5 days. We averaged
around 23 miles per day. Saw 5 bears. One was right above me in a tree
as I walked along. I looked up and there he was eating something in the
tree, it was a cherry tree, they grow wild here. The group I'm walking
with, Skeeter, Hawk, Wiffle Ball, Polaris, and Swiss (from Switzerland)
and I are getting ready to "aqua blaze" which is starting in Front
Royal, Va. and canoeing Shenandoah River to near Harper's Ferry. I will
be missing about 45 miles of AT that way but it will be a welcome change
from backpacking (now 950 miles). Also, Sheila and I have planned to
cover this section on our way back from Maine after I summit Katahdin
and we are driving home. This section is on the way back so it will
actually be fun to "finish" the trail with my wonderful wife. By the
way, when I get a chance to speak with her, she tells me that some of
you are showing a great deal of interest in this hike and are following
the progress on Ky. Heartwood's site. I encourage you to do that and I
hope that you each consider pledging a penny for each mile I walk. That
would make me very proud if you did. Also, some of my friends are
really pitching in and helping Sheila at home. Thanks a bunch. I'm
going to try to get some pictures out. I also caught up with my good
hiking friends, Peeper and Gumpy. Unfortunately, in moving ahead
faster, I left behind some good trail friends also. Missing Watermelon,
Hungus, Pace and the rest. The trail is getting hotter and drier now.
I carry more water and less food now. I have sent home my cold weather
gear and pretty much am carrying only a tarp, poncho, the clothes I
wear, water and food. I have many many stories to tell you. I will say
this...I brag on my law firm quite a bit. People eventually ask me what
I "did" before coming on the trail. I tell them I'm still doing it,
just taking a break and re-charging my batteries. Folks are amazed that
I have an office that supports me in this trip. I can't express to them
fully the absolute love I have for my law office staff and partners. I
have been given time out here to think about what they mean to me and I
am now clear in my understanding of just how unique our firm is. I look
forward to getting back at it in October. I look forward to putting
into practice some of what I am learning out here. If you are wondering
what that means...its simple. Out here, you hurt. You can complain
about hurting but you have two choices, quit or go on. If you decide to
go on, then shut up about hurting. If it rains, you welcome it. If a
snake coils beside the trail you respect it. If someone you've never
met before needs water, food or encouragement, you give it...freely and
without condition. You don't bitch, you move forward. I think that may
prove to be an important tool for a lawyer. I look forward to seeing my
colleagues ( and that means my Judges too) and I hope to be a better
lawyer when I get back. This trail is amazing in every way. I give
and take energy from the other hikers. I talk to the tourists. I am
blessed nearly every day with some kind of "coincidence" which is
happening so often that I am beginning to believe that these
coincidences are staring us in the face in real life every day but we
are too blinded by all the noise of day to day life that we pass them
up. We miss them. We miss life. Gotta go now, getting in a canoe
and heading along north. Love Michael
Michael called. They passed the 900 mile mark today. He said the
weather is hot but tonight should bring rain and cool it down a little.
They are hiking 20-23 miles each day now. The Shenandoah National
Forest is easier walking. Hawk's toe nail surgery was successful. He
is not in pain anymore and truckin' on. His call was short and
sweet...a big cheeseburger was waiting on him and then they were headed
back to the trail. I used to be more important than a cheeseburger. lol
Seriously, I am so proud of all these thru hikers. Amazing!!
Well, since I last wrote that Tyler and I were going hiking in the
Shenandoah things changed. We did drive 7 hours (in pouring rain to and
from) to Polaris' uncle's house on top of a mountain in Virginia.
Polaris' parents were taking very good care of the crew of thru hikers:
All Smiles, Skeeter, Wiffle Ball, Hawk, Blues Clues and Polaris. Food,
drink, beds, laundry and shuttles for slackpacking. Very nice people
from New Jersey.
Since the crew still had 40 miles to hike before reaching Waynesboro,
the consensus was Tyler nor I would be up to the 20 miles each day. The
mountains were steep and there were lots of them. We would have to
match the speed of these seasoned hikers. Bruce would drop them off
around 8am and pick them up around 6pm. We couldn't take a chance on
holding everyone up. Michael was disappointed. I was disappointed.
I'm not so sure Tyler was. lol
Tyler went back to Memphis yesterday. He had a lot of obligations he
needed to take care of at home. I miss him already. We did stop to eat
lunch in Lewisburg, West Virginia, passed a salon on the street and
Tyler had a foot of his hair cut off. It is still longer than mine. It
had not been cut in 2 years. He donates it to Locks of Love. It will
be a lot cooler. Memphis summers are unbearable.
I talked to Michael last night and this morning. He and Hawk were in
Waynesboro. They packed on in to town yesterday. Wiffle Ball went home
for a few days for his cousin's wedding. Branden and the others
slackpacked and spent the night at the house. Bruce was taking them to
Waynesboro this morning to meet up with Michael and Hawk. They all
headed north together today.
Gumpy had returned to Waynesboro to buy a new camera. I was happy to
hear Michael and Hawk met him for breakfast. Dr. Gumpy had to do a
little "surgery" on Hawk's toenail. It was infected under the nail. I
think he was going to remove his toenail. Ouch! These guys are tuff!
They all have aches and pains but they just keep on moving.
Michael was laughing and happy to see Gumpy. Peeper calls them kindred
spirits. I agree. I would love to see the two groups get back together
on the trail, which may happen soon. Gumpy and Peeper are about 30
miles ahead of them but they are taking off a day in Front Royal to
visit his brother. Michael and the guys plan to do 20 miles days
through the Shenandoah. The section to Front Royal, VA is 107 miles.
I need to close by saying this week taught us a lesson. It is nearly
impossible to make a plan to meet Michael on the trail. I may not even
try again. It is too hard to predict his location on a certain day. He
is so far north that the trip really should be made by plane, which has
to be planned. It is unrealistic to think I can hike with him and the
others. They are in their groove and they have to keep on moving. He
said to tell everyone he is sorry if he made plans with you but he won't
be able to fulfill his promises. As you can see, well made plans in
March can't actually happen months later on the AT.
I have traveled over the Blue Rigdge range and am now into the Shennendoah National Park (Skyline Drive). This is a 108 mile section and it is a very popular tourist (motor) destination. Memorial weekend, tourists, picnic baskets, and stinky thru-hikers...should be an interesting combination. I'm meeting Gumpy today for breakfast. He's a doc from NH and is very familiar with the Whites and we walked with Gump and his daughter Peeper for several days back in April. He's going to move ahead today and it will be great to see him. The trail is very physically demanding. The physical demands do not come close to the pshycological demands. People are dropping and the pack is thinning. Some people are getting rides ahead and skipping hard sections. I am walking with a good group of guys who all seem comitted to summiting Katahdin. They don't skip. Aches, pains, infections, and so on are discussed as if they are inanimate objects. For instance, one fellow, Hawk, has a problem with his foot. He thinks the best thing to do is cut it off. Skeeter thinks we should all throw rocks at the foot. I have now been in at least a dozen creeks rivers or waterfalls. The water in the mountains is ice cold and very refreshing...and numbing. I am seeing myself very differently now. I am being asked by "civilians" along the way..."why are you walking the trail, what do you expect to get out of it?" At one point in time, before I started, I thought I knew the answer. Now I just very honestly tell them..."I don't know." I am out there now, walking is just a way of staying out there. Emotionally, I climb just as high as I do on the summits of mountains, and the same goes for the valleys. It is amazing to actually be alive and experience this state of mind and body.
Tyler and I are leaving Tuesday morning to join Michael and the other
guys in Nellysford, VA. Polaris' parents own a large house in
Wintergreen Resorts. His parents picked them all up tonight and
starting tomorrow they will slackpack them for a few days. Tyler and I
are more than happy to slackpack and stay indoors instead of pack and
stay outdoors all week. We will hike north with them toward Waynesboro
and a little past before we have to return home. A slightly different
plan but I am sure it will be just as much fun. I will let you know how
many miles we get in plus recap our entire adventure when we return.
Just got off the phone with Michael and Branden. I hadn't heard from
them in a couple of days because AT&T cell service is terrible. They
called from Wiffle Ball's phone. They are all doing well. They were
laughing and giggling like little school girls.
They are at mile marker 760, Black Rock. They intend to hike 20 miles
today and end up near Big Island, VA. Their pacing schedule shows them
3 days behind. Remember though the pacing schedule doesn't allow for
zero or nero days so we knew from the beginning there was no way to stay
exactly on track with that schedule. We will now have to improvise on
our original plan, which was made back in March. Tyler and I were to
meet them tomorrow in Waynesboro, VA and hike to Front Royal, VA. We
planned to hike with them for 6 days and leave them on Monday, Memorial
Day. As it turns out they are 96 miles from Waynesboro right now.
If they can hike 20 plus miles each day they may make Waynesboro Wednesday
evening. Possibly Thursday. The problem is mine and Tyler's jobs. Of
course work always gets in the way of fun. I have to be back at Kroger
on Wednesday, the 30th, and Tyler has to be at work in Memphis no later
than Thursday, the 31st. He has an 8 hour drive back to Memphis. We
will have at least a 6 hour drive home from Virginia. We must leave
Virginia on Tuesday, the 29th. That will only give us 4-5 days of
hiking. We won't be able to make Front Royal. Tyler may be glad we
aren't hiking 107 miles. lol I'm a little disappointed although I
totally understand. It will still be fun and I am very excited about
seeing Tyler (he should be here today) and Michael and Branden.
I hope you were all able to view the picture of the crew. A few people
have commented on Michael's beard and Branden's muscles. That age
difference comes into play yet again. lol
I will keep you posted.
I received this picture from Diane, the lady related to Wiffle.
Although Wiffle had only met them one time. These guys spent the night with Diane and her husband. I hope you all can open this picture. I will list their names so you can put names with faces. Pictured left to right: Blues Clues, Skeeter (Branden), Polaris, Diane, All Smiles (Michael), Wiffle Ball, Hawk (check out his hair).
Wanted to share this with you. The 'fresh and energetic' AT group. You each ROCK!! Was a pleasure to meet you. Thanks for sharing your wonderful stories, I hope I didn't make you crazy with all my questions. I have lots more pictures, let me know if you want them.
I had a few minutes last night to get on the computer and look at the Ky Heartwood site...you guys have done a really great job. I had the rest of the guys look at the site and we got a kick out of the picture. We got a good laugh.
Today we leave Daleville and head toward the SNP thru the Blue Ridge range. Resupply is limited in this area and the weather is heating up. We have been treated like royalty here by Joe and Dianne and all we could do was mow the yard for them and pick some mulberries. Dianne is cooking breakfast right now and we are getting stuff together to leave. I guess we'll do about 20 miles today and same tomorrow. I loved this area and look forward to the next section. I hope that the word gets out about the fund raising aspect of this walk. I'd love to see some heightened interest in the constant battle for protecting these areas. The AT is a traverse thru such a variety of landscapes and we can consider ourselves lucky to have 2,000 miles of trail which passes through these eastern forests. I can see the evidence of damage though. We often see the world outside the linear path of the AT and it serves as a reminder that we have so much more to do. I love you all and am now being reminded by all of the fellows who I am traveling with that if funds are raised, and if the amount is substantial, they expect a cut. I think they are kidding but we'll have to see how much is raised first.
Its 5/16 and I have just finished mowing the yard and picking mulberries for the family that picked us up in the storm 2 days ago. The lady is related to one of the fellows I'm hiking with (Wiffle Ball) but he had only met her once before. She and her husband have been super great to us feeding us and providing shuttles for a 27 mile day hike and letting us use their home as a base in the Macafee Knob area. We are near Roanoke VA and the terrain is beautiful. Uplifted and tilted rock cliffs with views for miles. This is the beginning of the Blue Ridge range and we will be leaving our special hosts today. I was told by an experienced thru-hiker, Baltimore Jack, at the beginning of this journey that before it was over I would be staying in someone's home I had never met before. It is just over 700 miles into the trip and that is now happening.
Dianne, our hostess, was reading her daily journal, a sort of spiritual daily thoughts book, and yesterday, the day we met and stayed with her, the book said that people often enter our lives from what appears to be coincidence but they are there for a reason and we must accept their presence and exchange kindness...I'm convinced there is no such thing as coincidence. There are choices and consequences but not coincidence and fate and destiny.
My hike is probably, in the eyes of most of my peers, the wrong thing to be doing. For me it is the only thing to be doing and if it were wrong I would have already felt that by now. It is counter to the common path, true, but it is correct for me and I am growing stronger from this experience. I hope everyone who supports me and depends on me can trust this choice. This is difficult. This is not just walking, it is walking straight up, then straight down, in rain, wind, thunderstorms, and over very rugged terrain.
I was told by someone before I left that parts of the AT were "gross". I'm sorry, I haven't seen more that just a few miles of trail I wouldn't hike again tomorrow. I have to recommend, the Roan Highlands, Grayson Highlands, and the section from Catawba, Va to Daleville, Va. to all who like to hike. I am learning a new language out here also. Things aren't "cool" or "nice" they are AWESOME or ABSOLUTELY AMAZING.
I am walking with a group of hikers who have a great sense of humor. Since everyone has trail names and signs in at registers I really don't know most of the thru hikers, only that they are a unique subsection of society, each person being out here with a different perspective and motivation. For me, my motivation seems to be the trail itself. I can't explain it any other way that to say that the trail shows me something different, either about my culture, environment, or myself...everyday. I have nothing to prove to anyone, I am not engaging in an athletic endeavor, and I don't consider this a test of any sort...I am learning and it is becoming my "job". I will see all of you on the other side of this thing.
Michael sent us an email. I talked to him and Branden this morning.
Michael said Branden is possibly the faster hiker on the trail. He
said, "If I had just turned him loose he would have already made it to
The weather is getting a lot hotter so Michael says he won't be able to
hike 20 plus miles every day.
I received a SPOT today, also.
I am looking forward to joining them next week.
I will keep you posted.
Many of these posts are by Shelia Campbell, Michael's wife <3
Bath County, Kentucky resident, Michael Campbell, is hiking the entire Appalachian Trail to raise funds for the not-for-profit group dedicated to protecting Kentucky’s native forests, Kentucky Heartwood. Michael, a long-time member of Kentucky Heartwood, began his hike on March 22 at Springer Mountain, Georgia. By the first of September, after covering 2,181 miles of trail by foot, Michael will reach Katadhin Mountain in Maine and complete the entire trail.