The Trail Head

Hiking the Continental Divide, Pacific Crest and Appalachian Trail

From Georgia to Maine, with Jeff Sauer, aka Sauerdough, on the Appalachian Trail in 2010

Greetings from Central VA

june 7
I started hiking the App Trail on April 12th so it is coming up on two
months. A day or so ago I passed the 700 mile mark. As the trail is
2175 miles we are about a third done. Virginia
has been fairly hot and quite humid. Esp hiking uphill the sweat really
comes.
Fortunately the trail is mostly in tree cover so the heat is not bad. Im
told it will get a lot worse - July in NY, PA etc. Ive been hiking
with three other middle aged dudes going about the same pace. we have
been moving about 20 miles a day lately, which is a bit of a push. but
the trail tread has been nice and not too many ups. And I dont want to
have to rush thru New England. really looking
forward to that. drop dead date to finish in maine
is mid Oct. should make that fine. georgia and tenn,
north carolina were tough.
smokey mtn ntl park was hilly with lots of big climbs. up to 6000
ft. now top is 3000 feet. trail goes strait up many times.
switch backs were not part of this trail 75 yrs ago when built. birds and
plants have been great. first day in georgia
was blu headed vireo and black and white warbler. those became quite
common as was is red eyed vireo and black throated
blu warb (these two were in juno yrs ago). also great views
and lots of songs - hooded warbler, canada,
chestnut sided, etc. constant nearly songs of red
eyed, blu headed vireos for weeks. lately for 7 days ive heard call
and song of yellow billed cuckoo. not heard or seen black billed
cuckoo (on wish list). not much time to find singing birds - limited budget to
stop and hunt. must walk and walk. like all day. walk,
eat , visit with other hikers, sleep. then in
town restaurants with other hikers. it is like a college dorm
moving 15 to 20 miles N every day.
wish list - fish crow, the cuckoo, american woodcock.
swainsons warbler missed in the smokeys, maybe heard it but not confirmed, now
it is S of us.

in the S the dogwoods were blooming. white. recenty, rhodeeeys, and flaiming azellas, and mtn laurel, orange and
pink etc. quite something.
lots of poision ivy. stay the hell away from it and stay in middle of the
trail. do not bushwack
in the wrong place.
Lots of hikers seen over the weeks, quite social. no other birders,
one guy with us knows his plants -sasafrass, mints, cherries,
etc. Some violent thunder storms, but warm now so hike in
shorts with a rain top. only prob is lightning. trail is
mostly on ridge tops so when the thunder storm stricks, it is stressful, esp if
we are on a bald, clear spot. literally running for the
woods. once after the storm i saw a tree split down the
middle by the lightening bolt a mile or so later. but with lots of
hikers, no one seems to get struck, so far. maybe every couple
yrs. but we try to be careful. hotel room
every week or so - shower is incredible. not many creeks or ponds
to swim in so we get filthy fast. Im at Interstate 81 Dalevil
VA, headed for Shenandoah
Ntl Park.
in good health. had an ankle problem but favored it for a day off
and it is now ok. some blisters.

Cheers Jeff trail name Sauerdough



Jeff Sauer via email on Sunday, 6/13:<br />


mile 800 lexington buena vista VA 2 mo. anniversary sauerdough



Jeff Sauer via email June 25:


one day out S of harpers ferry, around mile 1000.



greetings


7/10/10



The rain hit before dawn. I balled everything I needed to keep dry, laid on top of the pile and wrapped my arms around it. Still rain leaking through my tent dampened it. I lay there, hoping it would stop and
weighing what to do if it didn't. We were less than mile up the A.T. north of
Port Clinton, Pa.


Helen Carbaugh, who'd served me 24 years ago at the Port Clinton Hotel, was alive and well and living in Fla. with her daughter, the hotel bartender told me the night before as we prepared
to hit the trail.


Back at the campsite, my legs were all but pinned into the low end of my bivy tent, collapsed in the rain. I packed and hiked out in the storm, after alerting Jeff Sauer"dough" and Keith Jones, the other
two members of Team Ohio on the
Pacific Crest Trail in 1985. We were back together hiking for the first time.


I moved a box turtle I found in the trail and hiked, some in the rocks Pa. is known for, past Pocahontas Spring. Sauerdough caught up to me and we passed Minehaha Spring and
hiked to the Windsor Furnace junction. The rain let up, but kicked in again.
Some said we got 3 inches that day. Confused, we hiked away from the junction
to a remote campsite, while Keith caught and passed us, missing a note we'd
fastened to the junction sign.


Learning our miscue from a group of hikers up from Philly, Jeff and I hiked in rocks and rain to viewpoints at Pulpit Rock and the Pinnacles. Eventually convinced Keith was ahead by southbound hikers,
Sauerdough, the thru-hiker, took off after Keith. I caught up to them after
Gold Spring and we sat, laughed at our inauspicious start, ate and tried to dry
our soggy gear.


From here we hiked down to a hiker hostel, a short walk down a road crossing at Eckville, and mingled with a group of thru-hikers, enjoyed a solar shower and continued to try to dry our gear. After signing and reading
the register, I hiked out first in the morning, passed a spot where I'd met a
father and son team, the boy 9 year old hiking the trail in 1986, and checked
in with home from Dan's Pulpit, while on a long break waiting for the rest of
Team Ohio. Turned out they'd just
taken a break nearby, but we sat and talked some more and signed the register
stored in a metal box at the overlook. We hiked on, over rugged rocks in
sweltering heat, pushing on to the Allentown shelter and then to the Blue
Mountain Summit, where live music at the bed and breakfast and bar restaurant
led us in. We dropped our packs at the outdoor bar and shared a pitcher in
celebration.


Larry the Loner


7-20-10


I am on the App Trail and have reached NY state. 1300 miles under me and 800 to go . the best is to come Vermont NH and Maine. Theresa was helping me send out reports but she is now working an eco tour ship
in Greenland and Spitsbergen. Ive
finally got to a computer and trying to mass email.



Things are going good. Lots of thru hikers on the trail, usually several seen per day. and hike with some, dinner with some etc. recently came across a piece of PA and then a bit of NJ. PA was actually a
rough state. Some serious rain storms. two buddies came in from ohio
for three days. they had hiked the pacific crest trail with me in 85. the first
nite it rained over 3 inches in a few hours. my single wall black diamnond
tent, good and lite, just is not made for that. it is paper thin and single
wall. not the first time i got pretty wet. but it really warm outside so it
does not matter if you are wet. what a diff from SE
AK. i have a 17 oz down sleep bag. usually
not needed much now. anyway packed it away at 1
am to keep it dry. slept in nylon hiking pants a few hours. we all
got quite wet. but we dried out 12 hrs later when it stopped. soaking tent in
pack is heavy. PA also had lots of rocky trail. Famous for it. some huge
bolders but mostly just really rocky jagged trai- fist sized all over the
traill. you cannot walk fast and your feet never strike the ground flat. it
causes really sore feet and esp little toes. and blisterss in places never
before had, like side of big toe. that is because that toe never usually moves
in the boot. on the bastard rocky trail though it moved a lot.



Now in NY state we are done with the miles of rocks. there have been couple good heat waves. headlines a couple weeks ago was E coast heatwave. Hey we were right there. 95 to 100 is tough. thankfully mostly in tree cover so
it was not that bad. get acclimated to it. still after couple 18 miles day and
a 23 mile day the group of 3 to 5 hikers i was with were whipped. worn down by
heat. now it is 90 or less. no problem, just lots of fluids. lots of
interesting folks.



I am in greenwood lake NY in a motel on the lake. several hikers here. ate dinner with couple ive hiked with last couple days. from
Cairns Aust. he at 61 is one of the oldest doing the whole trail - thru hiking.
she is 59 they own a niche organic fruit farm, with B and B outside of Cairns.



theresa hopefully is coming into maine to do the last whatever remains after Sept. 10. that will be fun.



Happy Trails



Jeff "Sauerdough"



8/2/10


Greetings from western mass (Dalton MA) .


mile 1600 or so on the AT. little over 600 to go. the home of arlo guthrie . did not find alices restuarant but am told arlo still lives here. his kids work in the store down
the street, son records music nextdoor etc. small town.


week ago was near stockbridge mass. james taylor is still living in that area. sweet baby james "so was the turnpike from stockbridge to boston.... the
berkshires...." (been in the berkshires for days now) and finally couple
weeks ago in western Conn. - we
were in the forest on a ridge with lots of race car noise down in this forested
valley. trail guide says there is and we could see the 1.5 mile mini formula
car racetrack nestled in the forested valley, where paul newman and friends
drove their race cars.


The brutal weather is gone. nice warm temps but not so hot. and cool eveings. actually sleep in sleeping bag. humidity is gone. now i remember why everyone in the east lives their lives in air conditioning. it is
tempting. then again we did get acclimated to the humidity, just as in the old
days. see if we get more heat before... going thru the states quickly now as
they are not that far across. 90 miles this, 80 that.


Soon the best, vermont NH and then maine. will need to change out some gear, get some clothes etc. looking for one bird Bicknells
thrush unique to NE mtn tops. do not have lyme disease yet at least as far as i
know. one dog got it on the trail.


the pace is more relaxed now, as there is plenty of time to make it to mt katadin maine by mid oct. which is the supposed time of closure. at a pace of 14 or so a mid
sept finish is in the works. am seeing some lakes and couple days ago there was
an AT Conservancy cabin with canoe. paddled out with some other hikers to an
island and swam in the evening sun. nice after days of trail dirt, sweat, and
deet.


things are good. eating a meal in a town every couple days. do the back to back; eat breakfast, and then ask for the menu back and then eat lunch, all in same sitting. theresa still plans to come in around the 12th of
sept after her nieces wedding in conn



cheers


jeff "sauerdough"



9/12/10


Today sept 12th is 5 mos exactly that ive been hiking the AT. Been in Maine for a couple of weeks now. And several milestones have recently been met. This makes us hikers
feel better


It has been a hard last month. The White Mtns of NH have been tough. big climbs and big descents, and the descents have been hours of step downs, like stepping off a coffee table to the floor time and again. Tough
on the body. The AT goes up and down w/o switch backs. Added to that the
condition of the tread in New Eng is bad: rocks and roots exposed from so much
wear. And rock fields in NH


Then the first half of Maine was also very tough. We heard it was all coming. Reduced to 10 miles a day when we used to be able to do twice that. But finally the tough parts are over as of
the Bigelow Mtns of Maine a day or so ago


Now in lower lands. still plenty of roots and rocks exposed but at least we can move at more than a crawl. As you can see I am tired and tired of hiking. So I went over the 2,000 mile mark couple days ago. And we are
150 miles to go. And the rest is not so rough. And we just crossed the Kennebec
River


5 mos in and couple weeks to go. And no rush. Mid Oct is closure time on Mt Katahdin. no problem. And best of all Theresa is in Boston just in from Greenland where she was working on a ship.
See her in couple days in Monson. And we will hike the last 100 miles ( the 100
mile wilderness of Maine) together.
Yahoo the end is near


Pulled into Caratunk today after a 15 and 17 mile day. at a lodge with couple other thru hikers ive been with the last couple days. Was hiking alone for quite a while. Things are good. Plan to enjoy the end


Jeff aka Sauerdough


9-27-10


As the previous US administration put it, "Mission Accomplished." I finished the AT on 9-27. Theresa came in and hiked the last 100 miles and then climbed Katahdin
with me on a beautiful fall day in Maine.
It was an extraordinary day and I will try to get some pics out soon of the
day. And the last 100 miles were quite nice with sun, odd warm breezes and
nearly peak foliage. There was also however a solid day of rain as well as
another solid nite of rain, but my new MSR tent did very well (Unlike my old
single wall breathable ie leakable Black Diamond tent). Siliconized nylon fly
on tent is the way to go I have decided. Forget breathable tents Get
ventilation underneath.<br />


<br />


The thru hikers were all carefully watching the weather for the last 50 miles, in order to be able to climb katadin on a decent day (or more- like climb it at all). That meant for theresa and me pushing for a 27th
summit versus what we had been hiking, which was a 28th summit (indeed 28th was
not good weather). Thus we pushed hiking 7 am to
7 pm for two or three days before, to set up for a 27th
climb.<br />


<br />


I was pretty well fried for the last month, but having Theresa there was great. And the 100 mile wilderness was a really nice stretch, with good views, falls, and other trail side attractions. Theresa found herself
in with hikers with 2000 miles under their belts and wanting nothing but to
finish and be done. That was a challenge for her. For me I did slow down a bit
which was prudent as I wanted to make damn sure I did not fall and break a leg
with 50 miles to go. Falls do happen for everyone. The AT ended, going up a
route on Katahdin that is said in the books to be the roots and rocks route. Oh
well, that seems the be the AT way. That that exists over much of the trail is
understandable as there is, over the decades much foot traffic, and the trail
gets worn down to the roots and rocks below. There is not much to be done about
that as it would not be possible to improve literally hundreds and hundreds of
miles of trail. What is worked on is the worst mud holes and swamps etc. roots
are the least of the maintainers problems. So although you may be alone for
long times in the middle of nowhere the tread tells you others have gone
before.<br />


<br />


I am thrilled to be done. It took a couple weeks longer than I had expected. I had not done my homework on how slow going it would be in NH (white mtns) and first half of Maine
(Mahoousic mtns). Luckily I had no deadline, unlike some others who were
meeting people at Katahdin or had US
visas runniing out. Theresa put it well when she said she saw cumulative
fatigue in the faces of the thru hikers. Still it was a great hike. It was very
social with many hiker friends seen one day and then again a week, a month, or
2 months later. It was like a college dorm moving 15 to 20 miles a day.<br
/>


<br />


As it turned out Theresa and I and another hiker left at first lite to climb Katadin starting at 0630. We reached the summit by 1130. I knew there were 4 or so other thru hikers leaving behind us later from the
base. It is 5.5 miles and 4000 ft gain. then back down same way. What I did not
know was how many were catching us, pushing hard to climb that same day. Anyway
by 1 pm there where some 15 thu
hikers summited. Where the hell did they come from I was asking. the trial had
been sparse for days. But it turns out many were pushing hard behind us to
climb that same day. One guy started from 15 miles back at 0230. Good headlamps
are a favorite of many of the 20 something dudes and gals.<br />


<br />


So it is over. I was one of many of one of the larger segments of thru hikers, that is the MAWGS. The Middle aged white guys. There were a lot of them. Just retired, or semi retired or whatever. We hung in there
pretty damn well although there was no way we could keep up with some of the
younger uber hikers. That was one of the other major groups, 20 to 30 year
olds, prime physical specimins. We kept up the pace by sleeping 9, or 10 or 11
hours (towards then end), and eating copius amounts of food. Cliff bars, power
bars, Lara bars, builder bars, fig newtons, snickers, payday, baby ruth: you
name it we ate it.<br />


<br />


The hike mileage is said to be 2179 miles. Just at 5 and a half months for me: April 12 to Sept 27. Maybe 10 full days off during that time. This AT hike was exactly 25 years after I thru hiked the Pacific Crest
Trail. That remarkably was also 5 and a half months. a bit longer at 2500
miles. And a lot younger. I am tired and under 150 lbs (not for decades -
normally 160) but with no injuries. My joints, knees, etc feel fine and are
really strong.<br />


<br />


Done. Off to see a bit of Maine with Theresa. Then on to Ohio (my family) CA (Theresa parents). Then home to Alaska.
I can smell the barn. Jeff Sauer (dough)




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