This blog is being dedicated to catching up on some overdue public Thank You’s, Shout-Outs, and Well Wishes. In no particular order, here they are:

Cory, Telico, and Outdoor 76

Okay, this one will be longer and is first on purpose… Sapling’s knee had been hurting for close to a week by the time we found ourselves in the town of Clayton, Ga. We stayed at the Day’s Inn and ironically, had I not made a crucial mistake Sapling may have been off trail by now. 

The day previous we had been at the wonderful hiking shop Outdoor 76 to wash our clothes. While waiting I took a look in the hiker’s box and found a can of tick spray utilizing a chemical known as Permethrin, which I took back to the hotel with me along with the fresh laundry. I set the can down and it slipped my mind until the next day. When it was time to go catch the Outdoor 76 sponsored shuttle and head back where we left off trail (Dick’s Creek Gap) I noticed the can next to the tv set. I made the rash decision to quickly spray down Sapling’s pants below the knees, plus her boots and socks. Unfortunately I hadn’t read the bottle first and Sapling, being more cautious, noticed that under no circumstances should permethrin be applied to clothing while wearing it! It said to seek medical attention and rinse heavily for 20 minutes. Plus it needed 2 hours to dry. Oh boy. In quick order she stripped the pants, boots and socks off and jumped in the shower to rinse. Then we sat around for 2 hours waiting for the tick spray to dry. I monitored her health but apparently the spray didn’t have time to enter her system. My bust.

Since the morning shuttle had been missed we would have to wait for the one that went out at 3:30 in the afternoon. We’d picked up coffee and pastries and were hanging around in the Outdoor 76 hiker lounge rueing the lost miles, but also enjoying the atmosphere of the store. I was rationalizing aloud to Sapling that another Nero would help her knee recover when I was overheard by a tall, thin fellow with an exquisite beard sans moustache. He was also sporting a flat brimmed baseball cap and style-wise looked like the skinny hiking version of Lebron James. Turns out he was Cory, co-owner of Outdoor 76.

So began Sapling’s turn-around. Her future on this trip had certainly been in doubt up to this point due to her knee. Cory spent the next couple hours conversing with her, diagnosing her issues and meticulously explaining how to fix them. The gist is that she had patella tendinitis and that we’d need to carefully monitor the intensity, duration and recovery of her knee in the coming weeks. He measured her feet professionally and found that her hiking boots were one and a half sizes too small. With Cory’s patient guidance Sapling decided to switch to a trail-running style shoe. Alec was also working and spent the next 30 minutes climbing up and down a small ladder to pull different brands and models down. There’s a ton more to shoes than either of us knew, including the use of spacers to manipulate the “volume” within the shoe.

I’m not sure I completely recall all the concepts Cory shared with us, but suffice it to say Sapling is wearing a great pair of North Face trail runners (I had no idea North Face even made shoes) and she loves them. He even showed her how to apply that fancy KT-Tape to support her patella. I’m a little jealous because it looks really cool, like all those beach volleyball players at the Olympics.. 

Even more importantly we’ve followed his advice on planning our daily hikes and kept the miles down. While several other people we’ve met have had to abandon due to the same issue, Sapling’s knee has slowly gotten pretty much pain free. 

Cory said he’d check back in with her when she arrived in Franklin in 40 miles hiking-time since their only other store was located there. And when we walked through the door, there he was. All told he must have given us at least 2 and a half hours of his time. Oh yeah, and in both stores Cory’s chocolate lab Telico was there wandering about to help Sapling get her k-9 fix.

Appreciate it Cory, Telico and Outdoor 76!

The 20 Somethings

I can always tell when Sapling has had enough of me. Maybe it’s my wonderful jokes, the dad pep talks, or my wise and endless advice on how to hold hiking poles and descend properly? She’ll pull off to the left abruptly and not so subtly tell me, “Here, you can go by.”

It’s a good thing there are a lot of kids her age out here too. As a matter of fact, when we crossed into NC there was a nice rock on the state line that we selected to celebrate on by having lunch. Two young women joined us and when one found out that Sapling was my daughter she looked at her and said, “I give you a lot of credit. I would not be doing this with my dad!”

One group of young ‘uns in particular has been in our orbit since the start. They pretty much always Shelter Camp as a group and often sit around a nicely built and well tended fire to wind down in the evenings. Sapling has hung out with them on occasion, and they made her day when they told her they feel she’s a part of their Tramily. Even I have had the privilege of hiking with and getting to know a few of them. They’re always friendly and a pleasure to be around. Thank you: Peroni, Radish, Pirate, Firefly, Iceman, Mantis, Rabbit and her dog Noka, and North Star.

Mountain Crossings

This is another amazing resupply store, at Neels Gap,   with a wonderful staff and amenities. Their heated bunkhouse was a welcome relief on a frigid night that dipped into the 20s. They have so much amazing gear you can barely squeeze between the racks. And they treat thru hikers like gold. In particular was Bill. He painstakingly worked with Sapling to make adjustments to her pack and fixed some problems she was having with weight distribution. And the gift shop was to die for. Once I’ve finished this puppy off I’m going back there to load up on AT Swag I can fill my man cave with (if I ever get a man cave).

Satellite and SpongeBob

I met Satellite and SpongeBob the night we stayed in the aforementioned Mountain Crossings bunkhouse.  These two guys turned into some of my best Trail friends so far. We had a blast getting to know each other that first evening, but then talked almost daily for a week as we’d pass each other by. Best of all was a meetup in Franklin at The Lazy Hiker Brewing company for food and beers. Unfortunately we’ve become separated by time and miles over the past week. And Satellite has had to leave Trail to support his family in a time of crisis. But we’re still in touch and I’ll cherish their friendship during the beginning of this adventure. Who knows, a reunion may be in the cards.

The Nameless

Turns out I’ve got a knack for names. I have given out 6 Trail names (including Sapling) that have been accepted in the first 3 weeks on the AT. I may be about to retire from that as while it’s fun to do, occasionally people don’t exactly love what you’ve chosen for them! 

I named my good friend SpongeBob, which was so obvious (his name is Bob) I was reluctant to say it. But after trying 2 others on him that he turned down I took one last stab and it stuck. Turns out it’s his favorite cartoon.

Songbird was always singing, and one day while it was cold and drizzly as we sought shelter in an AT Shelter she was shockingly at it again. The tiny birds hopping about behind her cemented that easy choice. She was thrilled with it. Unfortunately her husband didn’t like the name I tried to give him- Hulk. I thought it fit since he grunted loudly in frustration as he tried to slide dry socks over his cold wet feet!

A tan fella with disheveled bleach blonde hair was mighty excited to meet me when he found out I was a captain. I had to disappoint him with the news that I’m lower ranked than Captain Crunch. But then I realized his interest in my name came from the fact he was a ship’s captain by trade. He was still seeking a trail name so I suggested Skipper. He told me in no short order that it sounded pretentious. An hour later the two of us were enjoying some crazy-good trail magic right before the climb of Albert Mountain and it’s “sweet for selfies” fire tower. I saw my new buddy was standing there eating a peculiar snack- seaweed chips. A name and a legend was born. Last I heard Seaweed was hosting a viewing party for a movie in a shelter at the top of Winding Stair Gap. The movie? Cocaine Bear!

As I stood in front of the stone structure at the top of Wayah Bald I noticed some informational boards with the history of the mountain and the building upon it. I went and read what they had to say and especially enjoyed the old timey pictures of people hiking there circa the late 1800s. About that time a guy walked past me in a pair of woolen Army Trousers that had been tucked into his gaiters, and I thought I’d seen a ghost come to life off the sign I’d been reading. When I found out he was trail nameless and pointed out the resemblance he just had to take it- Old School.

Michael and Diane are awesome. We’ve been crossing paths for the past 2 weeks and I really relate to them. Diane had named her husband Manimal for his hiking style I believe- though there’s a better story there that I’m too sleepy to recall right now in this tent. So the pressure was on for Manimal to name Diane. After failing to do so for a week I stepped up with Better Half. It’s true, so she loved it of course. And since he’s been introducing her like that for half his life he didn’t try to knock my block off.

Trail Magic 

When there are billboards on the trail advertising upcoming trail magic you know it’s gonna be good. And wow was the Albert Mountain trail magic, provided by former thru hikers who’d driven all the way out from Iowa, good. Naw, it was tremendous. I had hot dogs, chips, a banana, an apple, some sour patch kids to look cool in front of the young kids, a Coke, and 3 beers. Plus they provided post cards they’d send to loved ones if we filled them out. It rocked! Thanks Ripper and company… and also thanks to: BFG and Sloth, Magic Man, and the Umpire for their great gestures of trail magic too. It really did help.


I love all the comments on this blog! I’ve had a fun mix from longtime pals, as well as from many new virtual friends. Thanks for taking the time to let me know your thoughts. And while I’ve given up on trying to respond back every time, please know that I read and reread every one.

Time to go to sleep- the Smokies are coming up!

Captain Fantastic

  • Day 18- 5 miles: Stealth Camp @ mile 131.6 to Nantahala Outdoor Center
  • Day 19- 10.75 miles: Nantahala Outdoor Center to Locust Cove Gap
  • Day 20- 9.3 miles: Locust Cove Gap to Stealth Camp @ mile 156.7

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Comments 11

  • Joanna : Mar 31st

    Love the names and reading about your adventures! Your name came up on our ride yesterday. Happy trails to you and Sapling! Looking forward to reading more about your journey

    • George Preiss : Apr 8th

      Hi Joanna… Miss you, the Gruppetto gang and all the rides. Thru Hiking is different in the way it wears you out, but it definitely wears you out in a slow grind kind of way. See you in a few months.

  • Kelly : Mar 31st

    Dear George,

    I have truly enjoyed reading your blog posts. Your writing style is exceptional- you are a natural storyteller. I have learned A LOT from reading about your thru-hike.

    At heart I am a distance runner but, I have done some day hiking over the years (The Dolomites, The Alps, Mt. Rainier, etc.). When my husband joins me in retirement, I hope to do quite a bit of hiking. My short term goal would be to do some overnight hiking on the Lake Superior Trail, and my long-term goal would be to do the Wonderland Trail. My late mother-in-law was a lifelong hiker and back country skier- she completed the Wonderland Trail in 3 days. She was an absolute beast! It would be fun to honor her memory by hiking one of her favorite trails. So, in the meantime I am reading as much as I can about gear, miles, and mistakes so that I can make this dream a reality.

    Thank you so much for sharing your journey on The Trek. Best wishes,

    Kelly (also a retired teacher after 36 years)

    • George Preiss : Apr 8th

      You’re a very good writer already, Kelly. I look forward to reading your blog when the time comes. Thanks for the response.

  • Francie : Mar 31st

    I get so excited when I see your new blog pop up! So proud of you and Madeline!!

    • George Preiss : Apr 8th

      Trail Name- Frankie!

  • Ruth : Mar 31st

    George! I have followed in your footsteps and traveled in to my very Favorite Job Ever (truly – I feel like I won the teaching lottery!), and someday Jeff and I hope to do a retirement AT adventure of our own! I love following your blog, and your video for the Bobcats yesterday brought tears to MY eyes. I wish you could have heard how many “awwwwwwww!!!!!!!”s came out of those squirrely adolescent mouths when they saw your face. It warmed my heart. Happy hiking to you and Madeline!!!!!!!

  • TJ : Mar 31st

    Hey George.. Your blog is awesome.. I’m a 54 year old phys ed teacher/coach here in Maine.. hoping to retire in 5-7 years and hike southbound within days of retiring ( thats the plan anyways.. I know a lot can change in that time!!) anyway reading about a retired teacher living my dream is inspiring… one college freshman daughter and one HS daughter.. have done some great adventures with them both.. Not sure they’ll ever do a thru hike w/ dad, but I can at least dream and live vicariously through you and Sapling!! Keep up the good work and writing!!

    • George Preiss : Apr 8th

      That’s great TJ. Thanks for responding. One tip to get your daughters interested would be start talking it up now as if this is something y’all will definitely be doing together in a few years. Share video links, go to outfitters and get some equipment, do some weekend trips, etc. It worked for us!

  • Flora : Apr 5th

    George, I agree you have a knack for the nameless. Keep at it! I have always appreciated you naming me Filly. Can’t wait to read your next blog!

    • George Preiss : Apr 8th

      Thank you Filly… Hope you’re enjoying Spring Break!


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