The power of 1/2 …

In honor of being half way done …

An engineer and a mathematician arrive together at a party. Their host greets them at the door and points across the room at a beautiful women sitting on a stool. He informs his guests that she has agreed to date whichever of them reaches her first. The host informs them that the rule is, that he will blow a whistle – at which time they may cover 1/2 the distance to the young lady but then must stop. When the whistle sounds again, they may cover 1/2 the remaining distance. This process will repeat until a winner is decided. With the rules established and understood, the host blows the whistle and the engineer races halfway across the room and comes to a screeching halt. Meanwhile the mathematician, with a big grin on his face, hasn’t moved an inch. The engineer, perplexed, turns to eye the beauty now only half a room away. The whistle sounds again and the engineer quickly covers half the remaining distance coming ever closer to the prize. As he glances over his shoulder, he sees the mathematician laughing hysterically, still in his original position. Surprised, the engineer asks “What’s wrong with you, can’t you see she’s gorgeous?” The mathematician, barely able to control his laughter, says, “You fool, don’t you see the problem? You can only cover half the remaining distance. You will never reach her!” To which the engineer replies, “I’ll be close enough for all practical purposes!”

I know – not great but it’s the best I could come up with. I apologize to my wife and all womankind for any offense taken because of this fictional story. Although, this is how I met my wife ?. 

Trail Update

As promised in my last update, I successfully made it out of Virginia – Thank goodness! It was a bittersweet moment though, as Virginia is most definitely a beautiful state. Before we could put Virginia in our rear view mirror, however, we had to navigate a section of the trail lovingly referred to as the roller coaster. A roughly 14 mile section with constant ascents and descents that total nearly 5000 ft. The hills aren’t so bad but the rocky terrain wreaks havoc on the feet. After disembarking from the coaster, it’s only a few miles to the next state, West Virginia and a really cool town – Harpers Ferry.

Dash and I decided to stay in a hotel and enjoy the town a bit. First order of business was to replace my boots. I got them a 1/2 size big so my toes wouldn’t bang into the ends when descending, which was great. What I didn’t account for was the general swelling of my feet which made the toe box painfully tight. My toes have been numb for weeks and I decided to see if proper blood flow could remedy the problem. So, at the outfitter in Harpers Ferry I bought some clown shoes (Altras) and I must say – my feet are thanking me. Note: after a few days with my new shoes I hiked in torrential rain and got my shoes all wet. In an attempt to dry them out I put them on a furnace register in a hostel. Shoes melted. The next day’s 20 mile hike was painful, but I was able to buy another pair of clown shoes!

Harpers Ferry is also the home to the ATC’s headquarters. Thru hikers are encouraged to check in, get their picture taken, and walk through the museum. It was a great experience but I was itching to get West Virginia behind me too after all the time we spent in VA. Leaving Harpers Ferry you cross the Potomac River and enter Maryland (5 states down). The trail is very flat and it’s easy to make good time.

Maryland is another “short” trail state. We made it through to Pennsylvania in two days (6). Even though our time in Maryland was brief, there were some memorable highlights. We saw the original Washington Monument and walked through a couple of Civil War battle fields. This area is filled with some important history – I hope we can keep it!

Once in Pennsylvania the trail drops down to road crossings and then climbs back out the other side, but generally there is little elevation change. What Pennsylvania is most known for is its rocks which make the going slow. They are brutal on the feet and shoes. Looking forward to putting PA in the rear view mirror.

Finally, I can say that I am more than halfway done. We recently passed the 1200 mile mark and are now closer to Katahdin than Springer. I hope that the closer we get to the northern terminus, the greater the pull to finish will be.

The AT Can Be Dangerous 

While some people may think this is just a simple stroll in the woods, albeit a long one. There really are dangers out here that must be taken seriously.

While making our final descent into our intended shelter the other night, we were met by a half dozen or so paramedics and other first responders. It turns out they needed to close the trail because a hiker had just passed away on trail. Apparently he had a heart attack and they had just ended their efforts to revive him. We were ultimately allowed to detour around him as it would be some time before they would be able to get him down the trail. It was a sobering and sad end to the day. My prayers to the affected family. 

A day or so later we learned of a Flip Flop hiker (hiker who starts in Harpers Ferry, heads north to Katahdin then returns to Harpers Ferry and proceeds south to Springer) who was on day 3 of her hike when a bear clawed its way into her tent. Fortunately she, and those around her, were able to scare the bear off before anyone was hurt.

Q & A

In my last blog I asked for readers to submit questions they may have about hiking the AT in general or about my hike specifically. Thankfully a few people responded.

Starting with some of the easier ones:

What kind of tent do you have?

I am using a Big Agnus Copper Spur UL2. It’s a few years old but it’s a great tent. I know there are lighter tents available but I like a free standing tent and this tent is the right size for a person and all their gear. Good luck on your upcoming thru hike!

Do you hunt and/or fish to get food while on trail?

Relying on my hunting and fishing skills would be a fatal mistake. Armed with a credit card and “hunting” in local grocery stores (at which I am reasonably capable) I have still lost a considerable amount of weight. I shudder to think what I would look like were I required to hunt and forage for my sustenance. Some hikers do have the skill to eat berries, mushrooms, leaves, etc. to supplement their diet. I’m confident that I would end up tripping on some hallucinogenic mushroom and end up with a mouthful of poison ivy. So, no – I do not hunt or fish to supplement my diet.

Will I make it to the beach this summer?

Boy I sure hope so. Not sure if I will get there for the “official” week but I’ll do my best.

How has support and trail maintenance varied by state?

Generally speaking the folks who maintain the trail do an incredible job. It’s remarkable how much effort goes into maintaining the trail (clearing blowdowns, fighting erosion, cleaning shelters, etc. ). As I started my hike in February, I encountered more blowdowns as it was still pretty early in the season. While all the states thus far have done a good job, I would say PA offers the cleanest and most comfortable shelters and VA has been the friendliest and most hospitable toward thru hikers.

There were a few questions that touch on a similar topic, basically “Why am I doing this?” and “Have there been times where I have stopped and said ‘This is why I am out here’”? So I am going to try and answer them all here.

First – I started this hike with desire to fulfill a promise I made to a dear friend that passed away. My buddy, Downhill, and I had section hiked the southern few states of the AT and had planned on ultimately completing the entire trail. When he passed, we spread his ashes on one of his favorite summits. At which time, his wife gave me a small vial with some of his ashes. She said I should carry him with me when I continued my hike. It was then that I made a commitment to try and complete the journey and take Downhill to Katahdin. Instead of picking up where we had stopped, I decided to make it a thru hike, so here I am.

In preparation for this adventure, I read a great book called Appalachian Trials which primarily deals with the mental preparation of undertaking such a journey. The author basically says to write down why you want to accomplish this feat and how you will feel if successful AND if unsuccessful.

One of my biggest drivers is to undertake a challenging adventure (physically, mentally and emotionally) and demonstrate to my kids that, with perseverance, we can accomplish great things. Honestly, there have been times when I have felt like calling it quits, and if I was in serious trouble I would. I want to demonstrate with this hike, however, what I have tried to teach my kids all their lives. That if you truly want something, you may have to sacrifice, hurt and struggle, but never ever quit because it’s too hard! We ultimately may not achieve our goals, but the journey will certainly make us better. Each of my kids, as they have gone about their lives, have regularly demonstrated this to me and thereby have inspired me to keep going. Consequently, I in turn know, with each step north and every mountain I summit, I am literally walking my talk. There’s a lot more I may say on this later – but in short, every time I see my kids push through a pain or disappointment, or get back up after being knocked down, I know why I am out here!

Romans 5:3-5 tells us – Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

I certainly don’t mean to imply that it’s all suffering out here. Most of the time I am in awe of the beauty around me. I enjoy walking in the woods, meeting new people of all walks of life, and thinking about my life’s purpose. But, there is also suffering. Some people say “embrace the suck”. I prefer my take on the topic.

On a lighter note, my doctor tells me every year that I need to lose weight. I can’t wait until my next appointment!

Keep your questions and comments coming. They truly are appreciated. It helps keep me connected. I’ll be plodding through PA for a bit now. With any luck, my next update will be from New Jersey or beyond!


  • Finished the following states: GA, NC, TN, VA, WV, MD
  • Passed the 1/2 way point and 1200 mile mark
  • Spent a “zero” in a PA shelter in a rain storm. 
  • Walked through several historic civil war sites
  • Fall count holding steady at 7

In Closing

As I am an engineer by training (hence the poor opening joke), I was thinking – if I can cover half the remaining distance in half the time I have already taken and then cover half the then remaining distance in half that time, then you know what …

Never Been Closer,


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Comments 8

  • Kelsey Yoder : May 8th

    Loved this post Uncle Bill! Your why is inspiring. I actually wrote down some of your words in my nursing journal just a reminder to not give up even when it’s hard- and that we grow in the journey through the struggle. You are awesome! And inspiring! Praying for you! Love ya!

  • Debbie Carney : May 8th

    First. Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. Proverbs 3:5
    Second. How does one not get poison ivy while on the AT?

    • Charlotte : May 8th

      Amen to both Debbie. The poison ivey is a concern for me!

  • David Groce : May 9th

    Great post and, again, thank you so much for investing the time (and some of your energy reserve) to bring us along on your journey. You’re performing a great service!!

  • Jenny : May 9th

    Loved this post and it even made me a little teary! You’re an inspiration to us all! Love you and praying for you daily.

  • RICK GUTHY : May 10th

    Bill…Love reading your updates!!! Keep them Coming!!!

    We definitely miss your presence on Tuesday mornings…but know that you will have weeks worth of great stories and lessons to share once you return.

    Safe travels…and can’t wait to have a COLD BEER with you upon your return.

    All My Best!!!

  • Richard Thayer : May 11th

    Great post! You’re picking up the pace quite well with hopefully good weather from here on out. Keep it up and enjoy your weight loss program. Just don’t lose your pants in progress!

  • Michael Beecher : May 21st

    Bill, keep up the good work. I have read all the posts and hope to follow in your footsteps next year as will also be retired by then. My grandaughter will be 24 months old by that point, so relate to that as well and will leave the trail at 800 miles to visit her for a day or so!


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