These two little words almost got me off trail…

If you have been following my adventures thus far on the Trek, you know that while I have (mostly) enjoyed my experience on trail, I adore and miss my family. Recently I had the opportunity to FaceTime with my wife, two of my daughters and granddaughter while they were enjoying a weekend getaway in Charleston, SC. When my only granddaughter, Rowan (affectionately referred to by me as “TugBoat”) saw me on the phone, she ran over and said “Papa Home!”. Being only 20 months old, she’s – at the moment – a woman of few words. Even so, I knew with absolute certainty she was telling me I needed to come home. You see, by the time I complete my hike, I will have missed 25% of Rowan’s life, and she’s changing fast. My intellectual side knows that these few months will amount to a mere blip in her life, but my emotional side wanted to say “Tugs, Papa is on his way!”. My rational side won out – this time. Boy I miss that kid.

Since I last posted, not too much “new” has happened. I’m still in Virginia – although hopefully not for long! In fact, Lord willing, I won’t be writing another blog from this state. So what has been happening? A few days ago, my hiking partner (Dash) and I left Glasgow, VA and hiked a 22 mile stretch of the trail that had an elevation gain of nearly 7,000 feet – all in a single day. We followed that with another 20 mile day that had nearly 5,000 feet of elevation gain and ended at the base of an approximately 6 mile, 3,500 foot climb that we would face the following morning. Needless to say, we were looking forward to entering the Shenandoah National Park where the trail is soft and flat and good food is easily obtained (yeah right). Note: The Shenny’s provide a healthy mixture of rocky ascents and descents and a meandering trail that periodically is enjoyable to walk. The trail frequently crosses Skyline Drive, providing stunning views that testify to God’s majesty and access to food at the wayside stations. The trail in the Shenny’s, by no means, should be called easy. While in the park we passed the 900 mile mark and crossed paths with our thru hiking friends multiple times. Perhaps most importantly, my fall count is holding fast at 7! Which reminds me, thanks to all you folks out there who have prayed for healing of my knee. I am happy to report that it’s as good as the other one now. I know that’s a low bar, but I’ll take it.

Notable Experiences

  • Waynesboro Chinese Buffet – I have been craving Chinese food for quite some time. When we made it to Pearisburg – there was a Chinese restaurant but Dash had a hankering for Mexican and the Chinese place was suspect. I’m glad we waited. If you even remotely like Chinese food and are hiking the AT, Ming’s Garden Chinese buffet is a must. All you can eat and the food is actually quite good. Winning combination. Give yourself plenty of time, you don’t want to rush this experience!


  • Trail angels – we had an interesting encounters with a trail angel upon reaching Waynesboro, VA. Just as we came off the trail, a Jeep pulled up and the driver asked if we needed a ride. Having made no other plans, we asked if he wouldn’t mind taking us to a McDonalds. During the drive, we come to learn, that the previous day this very person picked up a thru hiking friend of ours – Fortune. Fortune needed a quick ride into town to resupply and this gentlemen was all to willing to help out. He then heard, through Fortune, that Dash and I would be passing through a few hours later. So this guy purchased some sodas and snacks, put them on ice, and left them in the woods with our name on them! What are the odds that the very next day he’d be driving by just as we exited the woods and offer a ride?!


  • Shenandoah National Park – All I can say is stunning. The park is beautiful and it is easy to see why it still remains a premier vacation destination for camping and hiking enthusiasts. My one regret is that we were passing through before the park fully opened. We missed the wayside hamburgers and milkshakes that we had heard so much about. As it turned out, we passed through a week or two before all the amenities fully came on line. We did, however, manage a night’s stay at the Skyland Resort. While a bit pricey, we were in need of a shower and a good meal.

  • Lunch with Sarah – By far, the best experience I’ve had lately was a picnic lunch at the Big Meadows Wayside with my youngest daughter Sarah. She drove up from Raleigh, NC and brought Dash and I some subs, cold beverages, fresh fruit and some chips. Our time together was far too brief, but I had a smile on my face the rest of the day. Thanks, and I love you SG!

A “Typical” Day

I’ve been asked what does a typical day on the AT look like. While every day is certainly unique, there are many similarities from one day to the next. Below is an attempt to describe a “typical” day.

Wake up – There are some hikers who actually set an alarm to wake up. They are annoying to be sleeping near as their time usually doesn’t correspond to my time. I, on the other hand, rely on the tried and true method of waking two minutes before I can no longer control my bladder. I then slide out of my bag and find a nearby privy or tree. Note: It’s really important to not hit snooze when using this method. This generally occurs around 5:45. As it’s been cold lately, I generally slip back into my bag and lay awake until 6:30. Dash needs his beauty sleep.

Breakfast – As the mice have increased their in the shelters, we’ve been doing much more tenting lately. The upside is that I can prepare my breakfast while lying in my sleeping bag. Generally breakfast consists of a breakfast powder mixed with a hot chocolate followed by two oatmeal packets. Time permitting, I’ll chase this with a cup of coffee. This is typically when I look at the upcoming terrain and elevation profile and select a target destination for the day.

Hiking – Most of the day is, obviously, spent hiking. We generally break the day’s hike into 2 or 3 segments depending on length. As our feet are fresh and we usually start the day strong, we like to do about half the days mileage before taking a break. When we stop, we generally eat a snack, refill our water and confirm our day’s termination point.

Make camp – Once we reach our destination, or our feet have had enough, we set up our camp. This includes pitching the tents, hanging the food, replenishing the water and cooking dinner. For me, dinner usually consists of Ramen noodles, a tuna packet and a protein bar or two. I also like to snack on something sweet while I do my journaling. Finally, I climb into my bag and listen to a book on tape while falling asleep. I am usually in my sleeping bag by 7 pm, 8:30 if there’s a lot going on and I want to stay up late.

What’s Next?

I know from my perspective, I’m looking forward to putting Virginia behind me. Within the next week, we should finish Virginia, West Virginia and Maryland. Then, we will be in Pennsylvania for awhile. Based on the reports, Pennsylvania is not going to be very enjoyable to hike. While there’s not much elevation change to contend with, the rocks and long stretches with little access to water have given the state a bad rep. I hope (please), that the reports are an over exaggeration.

What I’d like to do for my next blog or two, is respond to direct questions or topics requested by you. What is it that you’d like to know or hear about from the trail? If I can’t answer the question, I’m surrounded by other thru hikers who I’m sure can. So please leave a question or a topic for discussion below and I’ll do my best to respond. If you don’t, you’re going to have to put up with whatever I come up with ?.

As always,

Never been closer!


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Comments 11

  • Nancy Schultz : Apr 23rd

    Hi Bill. I am continually impressed with your progress and perseverance! And your granddaughter is adorable — totally get the pull to come home! But she will be even more excited when you come home finishing such an amazing feat. I look forward to reading your blog and think about you a lot. I know how difficult it can be, after following my brother-in-law on the trail. I worry about you when there’s been a bit of time between posts. So glad your knee is back! Be safe and Happy Trails!

    Nancy Schultz

  • Tom Mc : Apr 23rd

    Bill – Thanks for continuing to share your AT experience with us. I haven’t seen Stella or Vera in a week and I’m going nuts. Rowan will be arms wide open for you when you get home! We’re so blessed to have our families. It’s great that Sarah met you for lunch. After the FaceTime with Rowan, that must have really helped to “fill your tank” with some family love.

    Here’s a question for your next post: Have you hunted or fished for food while on the trail?

    All the best, my friend! Stay safe, tom

  • Richard Thayer : Apr 23rd

    Making great progress Bill! Delighted to hear that your knee is better, that is surprising with all the elevation changes you have undertaken.
    I’m surprised with all the amenities available, but by no means, detracting from your accomplishments. You are getting close to the half way point so keep going, soon you will be on the back side of the trail curve. My limited experience from long ago on the Pennsylvania trail is it is rockier but the state offers a lot of neat views and foliage. Press on! Look forward to your observations on how each state differs in the support given and trail maintenance.

  • Sue : Apr 23rd

    Are you still on target to be back for BEACH WEEK??
    Keep on keepin’ on!!
    Love you!

  • Russ Hobgood : Apr 23rd

    Bill, excellent progress! Rolling up through SNP, weather is still nice, kind of. Sounds like the knee is holding up well. Loving the pic of your grandaughter, she is precious. Take care, trail blessings as you travel.

  • Jane Seaman : Apr 23rd

    Hi Bill, always lovely to get your updates. My questions to you is; can recall a time, or times, that have made you stop and think wow, this is why I am doing this journey?

  • Sparks : Apr 23rd

    Curious, what kind of tent do you use? I subscribed to you blog, keep it up!
    I am 72, will be 73 when I start the AT.

  • Joe Tanner : Apr 23rd

    Bill, You have chosen an impressive challenge for yourself. You are in the thoughts and prayers of many of us in The Cove. Keep up the positive attitude and you are going to make it. Boiler up!

  • Albert Koch : Apr 23rd


    Thank you for the update. I look forward to hearing from you all the time. Every day as I take my walk around the golf course, I think of you and wonder where you are. I try to follow you in my mind. The moment you described when you heard from your granddaughter touched me as I can relate to my granddaughter who is out in LA. Although I am not on a long AT hike the distance makes it hard to be in touch and I do miss her a lot.

    Safe journey,

  • Craig Raycraft : Apr 23rd

    At “Papa Home” I would have turned and run home ?!
    My question is: The hiking is indeed wonderful, but are you able to answer, “Why the entire AT?
    Love hearing from you, tell Dash I say hello.

  • tasmaine : Apr 28th

    Your comment about your granddaughter really hit home. I retired a couple years ago and I get the privilege of caring for my 2 grandkids (8 months and a bit less than 3 years) a couple days a week with my wife. It is exhausting, but wouldn’t trade it for anything. While I’ve considered hiking the AT, I don’t know if I could handle the separation from them.

    Here’s my question, and I expect a delayed answer. Most people set out on a long hike like this with some goal. I could be as simple as wanting to know if you can do it. Or, finishing an interrupted trek. When you finish, I’d like to know how many other goals you were able to achieve.

    Stay healthy, and enjoy your hike!


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