Pearwood is done, at least for now

For now, at least, Pearwood is done. But by time I made it home, I realized I was already assuming that I would be back again next year.

My entry in the Above the Clouds Hostel log.

Friday, April 7.

Pearwood here, or PearwoodOnTheTrail @ Instagram. I’m done. Last year I failed; this year I am simply done. These 72-year-old bones are not tough enough for this. Back on the Amtrak at 12:24 tomorrow morning for NYC and on to Rochester.

I realize I have accomplished what I most wanted to accomplish. I have a framed print on the wall at home of a photograph (Argus C3 ‘Brick’) of Stover Creek shelter I took last year. I wanted to get back there and past Hawk Mountain, where I bailed out last year. I did that. I got to Horse Gap then over Sassafras Mountain – all four hours of it – and to Cooper Gap, where I bummed a ride back to Above the Clouds. I knew if I pushed on to Gooch Gap shelter I would arrive dead on my feet well after dark, assuming I didn’t fall and need a medevac or undertaker. I was too tired to be agile and careful.

But I did it by myself, at my own pace, and met some beautiful people. I am satisfied. Thank you all.

Getting to Georgia.

Michelle of White Blazes Shuttle Service picked me up at the Gainesville Amtrak station and drove me to Above the Clouds Hostel. I knew from the day I quit the trail last year that Above the Clouds was going to be my base station this year. Thanks to Lucky and the crew!

Michelle of White Blazes Shuttle Service drove me to Above the Clouds Hostel

Michelle of White Blazes Shuttle Service drove me to Above the Clouds Hostel

The brag beer from my two favorite Rochester-area breweries did in fact make it to Above the Clouds

The brag beer from my two favorite Rochester-area breweries did in fact make it to Above the Clouds

Sunshine on the trail.

I started out at the Springer Mountain parking lot on Palm Sunday morning and backtracked to the top. It was a gorgeous day. I had to include the Ondu 6×6 Pocket Pinhole Camera in the photograph for the Ondu folks on Instagram.

Pearwood on Springer Mountain, Sunday, April 1, 2023

Pearwood on Springer Mountain

A beautiful day on Springer Mountain

I loved the gnarly trees

From Springer Mountain it was on to Stover Creek. I slept in the same spot up in the loft I had last year. The weather was beautiful. We had fun.

Sunshine at Stover Creek Shelter

Stover Creek Shelter

Up in the loft at Stover Creek Shelter

Sunshine in place of last year’s rain

The next day I made it to Hawk Mountain shelter. We hiked that stretch last year in the cold rain. What a delightful change to hike it in the lovely Spring weather. Most of the Stover Creek cohort was already there. They cheered me in. I slept in the loft.

Hawk Mountain Shelter

Hawk Mountain Shelter

The plan for day three was to get to Gooch Gap. I quickly realized that wasn’t going to happen. I pitched my tent at Horse Gap along with a few other hikers. There wasn’t any water to be had so we ate energy bars and Belvita to conserve what we had. I decided it is easier to get oneself organized in a tent than in a shelter.

Horse Gap is at the base of Sassafras Mountain. Up we went on day four. I was last and slowest. The climb isn’t terribly steep, but it is relentless. I was well and truly tired by time I started back down the north side. I decided I had done what I needed to do. Cooper Gap would be my 2023 terminus.

Pearwood and the water buffalo at Cooper Gap

Pearwood and the water buffalo at Cooper Gap

Thinking it over.

I usually enjoy hiking the trails with my pack. But the pack is usually at 30 pounds or less rather than 38 or a bit more. Once upon a time forty pounds was my weight not to exceed. It’s closer to thirty now, at least if I am planning to enjoy the hike. That’s the first thing I need to figure out for next year. The other is that I need to be out in the woods more often and for longer distances. 2022 turned out to be a challenging year for me. I did well through June, but then real life got in the way. I was not nearly as well-conditioned as I had planned.

Plant hooks are just right for airing out the sleeping bag

Plant hooks are just right for airing out the sleeping bag


I shot four rolls of twelve with the Ondu 6×6 pinhole camera. I have developed and scanned the first roll and started working up the photographs. Here is the first one from a very early morning at the Rochester Amtrak station. I’ll show the rest to you in another post. Today’s color photographs are from the phone, with editing limited to what I could do with the Instagram app.

Way too early in the morning at the Rochester Amtrak station. Ondu 6x6 pinhole camera.

Way too early in the morning at the Rochester Amtrak station. Ondu 6×6 pinhole camera.

Steve / Pearwood
Soli Deo gloria

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Comments 12

  • Harry Poppins : Apr 15th

    I am supposed to start back on the AT in 1 week but I have a herniated disc at L5 from about 10 days ago. Shooting for next year. I’m not giving up either

    • pearwood : Apr 16th

      Ouch. As a dancer friend assured me in 2017, there is life after a herniated disk. Hang in there!
      Steve / pearwood

  • Russ1663 : Apr 16th

    Steve. I applaude you decision, the body knows. I know it had to be a hard way to go as like myself, you will miss the beauty of it all and the comradery of our fellow hikers.

    At 73 and recovering from total knee replacement, mountains will be a thoughtful decision later this summer.

    I suspect you have many photos of your adventures. I have a few high point hike photos on the wall as well as a collection of destination patches.

    Take care of yourself Steve. Best of trail luck always


    • pearwood : Apr 16th

      Thanks, Russ.
      May you and your new knees be back on the mountains soon.
      Steve / pearwood

  • Greg Brooks : Apr 16th

    If you want to join me for a coffee now that you are back in town 721-4879 Greg Brooks

    • pearwood : Apr 17th


  • Kelli Ramey : Apr 18th

    There is nothing wrong with tenacity.
    Or optimism.
    One year is different from another for myriad reasons.
    You have encouraged hundreds with your comments and feedback.
    Thank you.
    Hope to see/hear more of you.

    • pearwood : Apr 18th

      Thanks, Kelli. :hug:

  • Turtle Bill : Apr 19th

    If you would like to try something different: When I was 74, I drove from Springer to Katahdin, following the AT for 3 months. I day hiked, spent nights in shelters, hostels, cheap hiker motels. I climbed the steps in Amnicola, hiked from USFS 42 to Springer to touch the plaque, hiked over Blood Mt, stayed at Neel Gap, visited Clingman’s Dome, stayed in the Fontana Hilton, drove through the Smokies, ziplined at the NOC, Hot Springs, Damascus, McAfee Knob, Front Royal, Harper’s Ferry, Doyle Hotel, Pine Grove Furnace (had my quart of ice cream), Perkins Memorial Tower, rode the gondola up Wildcat Mt, rode the cog train to top of Mt Washington, Abol Bridge, climbed Katahdin (only made it to first rebar; old men can’t jump). That’s just a few of the places.
    You can bring all of your camera equipment. Create a black and white coffee book of the AT sites, hikers, hostels. Maybe, come up with a yellow blaze guide book.
    Katz said, “We might not have thru hiked the AT, but, Bryson, we hiked the Appalachian Trail.”
    And so did I.
    Something you might want to consider?

    • pearwood : Apr 20th

      Sounds like a fun way to do it. Thanks!

  • Jo Anne Reinhard : May 23rd

    I am far behind in my Trek articles, but wanted to say congratulations on the section hike of the AT you completed! Your postings and comments have always been so supportive of other hikers. Beautiful photographs! The black and whites remind me of Ansel Adams’ Yosemite photos. Hope you have a wonderful summer and I look forward to reading about your next section hike and seeing more black and white photos. Take care!

    • pearwood : May 23rd

      Thank you, Jo Anne!
      I need to upload my photos from Above the Clouds Hostel.


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