5 Weeks ’til the Finale

Will is in Vermont! If you’re as confused as I am about the layout of the New England area, here’s a recap of his progress, starting from way back in Springer Mountain: Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont. He’ll be in New Hampshire within a few days, and then on to the big finish in MAINE!

It’s hard to pinpoint Will’s exact finish date at this point, as Maine has a lot of really difficult sections, but we are planning on him finishing in 5 weeks (the first weekend in August). I can’t believe it! We had a great visit in Massachusetts/New York and even had the chance to see our friends in upstate New York while we were there.

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Right before swimming in Lake Ontario – my first experience with any of the Great Lakes!

I’m planning on flying to Maine for the finale, but we’re still working out the logistics to make that happen. As Will heads farther north, it’s actually getting cool again. I just mailed him a package with his hat, gloves, and some long pants that he will pick up this week in Hanover, NH. He’s also headed into more remote, rugged terrain for the remainder of the trip, and cell service may be spotty. It’s been amazing to see so much of the varied landscape of the East Coast, including the towns, the people, and the environment! I’m not as in touch with the hike as I was at the beginning when I was visiting every weekend, so I’m thankful for Will’s photos and journals to stay connected. Hope you enjoy the photos above documenting the life of a thru-hiker (including a random trail goat)!

-Meridith

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Highlights From the Trail

In May I took on a new project – working as Editor for the next issue of Carolina Weddings Magazine! It’s a great opportunity and I’m enjoying it, but because it has taken a lot of my free time, I haven’t been able to devote as much time to the blog as I would like. Hopefully that will change later this month as I meet deadlines for the magazine. For now, I want to share a brief update on Will: he’s at mile 1,155 as of the last time I talked to him, headed toward Port Clinton, PA. We’re still working out details for the next time I’ll see him, but it will likely be mid-to-late June. It seems so far away, and I miss him a lot, but we’ve already been through three months and we should only have two more… coming down the home stretch!

Will standing on rocks

Over the past few days, Will has taken the half-gallon ice cream challenge (it’s exactly what it sounds like), been bitten by his first tick, dealt with a broken cell phone and got a ride to a Verizon store to get it replaced, sewn up a hole in his shoe with a needle and thread, enjoyed a hiker Memorial Day picnic, and hiked through both wide open farmlands and trails covered completely in rocks. It has been a week of ups and downs, but Will continues on through it all!

Forsyth Woman magazine has been kind enough to let me tell Will’s story in the May, June, and July issues. Below is the article I wrote for the July issue- four of Will’s picks for special/memorable places on the AT. Read on for Highlights from the Trail!

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Every day is an adventure for Will on the AT, but there are a few highlights that have really made an impression on him. These are bright spots, milestones, and places he has made note to visit again someday.

Nantahala Outdoor Center

Hike from Franklin, NC to Nantahala Outdoor Center

Franklin, NC is a cute, quiet trail town and Nantahala Outdoor Center is a whitewater rafting and outdoor adventure center located at the intersection of the Appalachian Trail and the Nantahala River in the Nantahala National Forest. Early in his journey, I met Will in Franklin, NC for the weekend. As he hiked on from Franklin, he saw the most beautiful sunrise one morning at his campsite. Will and I hope to travel this path together sometime in the future so that he can show me the campsite, and maybe we’ll even try out the whitewater rafting at Nantahala!

Damascus

Damascus, Virginia

Damascus is a must-visit site on the Appalachian Trail. It is famous for “Trail Days,” an annual celebration for thru-hikers featuring food, live music, and outdoor product vendors from around the region showcasing everything from energy bars to rain jackets. We visited Trail Days together last year, and although Will passed through Damascus before the event took place this year, we did spend some time together in the town – his parents visited that weekend, too, and we all relaxed together in a cabin by the river (accompanied by lots of friendly ducks). Damascus is located just over two hours from Winston-Salem and is also known for the Virginia Creeper Trail, a 34-mile bike path that passes through it.

McAffee Knob

Virginia Triple Crown (McAfee Knob, Tinker Cliffs, and Dragon’s Tooth)

The Virginia Triple Crown was one of Will’s favorite sections on the trail because it features some of the best views within a short distance. McAfee Knob, Tinker Cliffs, and Dragon’s Tooth are all conveniently located within a few miles of each other just outside of Roanoke, Virginia (another great town only two hours from Winston-Salem!). McAfee Knob may be the most photographed spot along the AT. Will posed for a photo sitting atop the ledge overlooking the vast valley and distant mountain ranges below. My guess is that most thru-hikers have a similar shot – it’s just too good to pass up!

 Harpers Ferry

Harpers Ferry, West Virginia

There are so many things that make Harpers Ferry special, and I started hearing about them before I ever began the drive to visit Will. The small town is full of natural beauty – the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers meet there, and everything is exceptionally green. It is also full of history, being a key battleground during the Civil War. It’s got scenic railroads and huge bridges, the downtown area is full of character, and it is located just an hour outside of Washington, DC. Although Harpers Ferry is not exactly halfway mile-wise, it is considered the “psychological midpoint” of the AT, and the Appalachian Trail Conservancy is based there. Whether you are a hiker, nature enthusiast, or history buff, Harpers Ferry is the place to be.

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These are only a few of the highlights of Will’s journey through 14 states on his way to Mount Katahdin. I am sure plenty more highlights await him over the next two months! We’ll keep you posted 🙂

-Meridith (@thetreelogs)

Halfway to Maine

This was a big week for Will… he hit the 1,000 mile mark on Wednesday! WOW! I haven’t visited the past couple of weekends, but last weekend Will’s dad drove up to visit him in Luray, VA. I know it meant a lot to Will to have his dad there and I hear they made lots of memories!

Root Beard has made it through Shenandoah National Park and will be in Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia tomorrow morning (yes… he’s out of Virginia!). Harper’s Ferry is the home base of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy and is considered the “psychological midpoint” of the AT. I’ve heard so many good things about Harper’s Ferry, and it is such a milestone on the AT, so I’ve been planning on visiting Will there since he got started. I’m getting an EARLY start tomorrow morning to pick Will up in Harper’s Ferry, then we’re driving over to the Washington, DC area on Saturday since it’s only about an hour away! Catch up with you soon!

-Meridith

All About Trail Life – Notes from Will’s Journal

Will is keeping a daily journal on his phone and this week he got it connected to the iCloud so I could read his entries at home. I loved reading them and thought you might, too. I’ve picked a few quotes, in no particular order, that span Will’s journey of several weeks on the trail. I think these highlight some interesting aspects of trail life – the people he’s met (known by their trail names!), the food he’s eaten, the weather he’s encountered, and the mental and physical toll of a long-distance hike. I hope you find these highlights as interesting as I did!

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I made it into NC today! It was immediately more rugged but much more gratifying of an experience. There were more views in the miles I hiked in NC today than in all of GA.”

“We all ate and talked a little and then, as is thru-hiker custom for some reason, got into bed right at dark, which is about 7pm right now.”

​”As Lumpy was showing us the resupply area, he said ‘I have everything a hiker could ever need in here.’ I asked ‘Do you have Aqua Mira [water purification tablets]?’ ‘Well, no,’ was his reply. So that just sums up my stay there.”

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​…a trail angel named Rodney had set up his tail gate on his truck with peanut butter cookies, fresh fruit, coffee and orange juice. I stood and talked to him for about 45 min while I waited on the shuttle to come get me. I had 6 cookies, a banana, coffee, and 2 cups of OJ.”

“I was so worn out at the end of today. I was really hating the AT for how it goes up so steeply, only to send you right back down immediately. I was mad, but I never once thought of quitting. It’s not even in the cards at all as long as I can walk.”

​”A section hiker named Boston told me that a guy at the shelter might have norovirus, so I ended up setting up my tent beside his to try and minimize my exposure. I probably washed my hands a half dozen times tonight in the bathroom.”

​”…eventually the bottom dropped out and it began to pour. It rained from probably 1:30 till about 5:30 heavily.”


This side of Clingman’s really reminds me of the Sierras. There are large grassy balds on the sides of the mountains. And lots of hemlocks. Looks more like something out west than in the Appalachians.”

They hiked the trail several years ago and had 2 broken bones along the way. Took them 3 years the first time they said.”

We ate frozen cheese burgers and shared a bag of Rice Krispies from the hiker box with some powdered milk we also found in the box. Bow Tie went and bought 10 sugar packets for 25 cents and distributed them among us for our cereal.”

“It rained, snowed, and/or sleeted all day. About mile 13 I was really getting fatigued, and just sat down on a log in the rain.”

I got stocked up on water and ate dinner on a log close to where I had set up my tent. Backcountry pad Thai tonight. Ramen noodles, peanut butter, soy sauce, Knorr dried vegetables, and a little of the seasoning packet that came with the Ramen.”

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Today would be my longest day yet. 19.8 miles to Cosby knob shelter.”

I noticed as I rolled past the shelter that all were gone except 2 people who I later would learn were Cabot and Hobbes. Pilgrim, Pinky, and Free 2 Go were all there the previous night but were gone now.”

We got changed and decided to wait for the snow to die down before going out for water to cook dinner. It was snowing so hard and blowing all around that the shelter began to get covered inside.”

Woke up in the shelter after probably the best night’s sleep I’ve had. I heard a mouse right as I was about to get in my sleeping bag and didn’t have too high of hopes for the night’s rest, but all in all it was pretty good!”

​”I set everything up, ate and brushed my teeth just as it started getting dark… now I’m going to enjoy the night and look at the stars a while before heading to the tent to read and get some much needed rest.”

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Will is now north of I-40 (a milestone!) and has hit the 300-mile mark. I didn’t visit last weekend, but I’m meeting him again this Friday – Saturday (3/25-3/26). We are planning to meet up at mile 317.6 and stay in Erwin, TN.

So far so good!! Thank you for all of your encouragement and support along the way! 

-Meridith

French Fry Salad, Anyone?

This past weekend I met Will in Fontana Dam, NC, a resort village located at the edge of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park where North Carolina meets Tennessee. The nearest actual town is Robbinsville, NC, which is a 30-minute drive away from the resort and has a population of just 620.

We stayed at the Fontana Village Resort, which offers a special rate for thru-hikers, and explored nearby Fontana Dam. It is the highest dam east of the Rocky Mountains and has a pretty fascinating history.


The main event on the weekends, of course, is the FOOD! As delicious as Ramen noodles and granola bars may be, Will does look forward to non-trail food every once in a while. We made the journey into Robbinsville on Saturday to see what kind of small-town local fare we could find.

For lunch, we spotted an all-you-can-eat pizza buffet joint and decided to continue our tradition from the previous weekend. As we stepped out of the car we heard shotgun blasts and saw orange discs flying overhead. WHY was there a group of people shooting skeet right beside of the restaurant? We’re not sure, but they didn’t seem to find it odd in the least. If nothing else, it made for some great “all-you-can-skeet” buffet jokes.

Dinner was at the local Mexican restaurant. Having attended my fair share of family reunions and potlucks growing up in the south, I thought I had seen “salads” of every variety – but we spotted a new one here. The following menu item was listed under the Salads section exactly like this: “A bed of french fries topped with ground beef, covered with cheese and pico de gallo.”

Wait. What?

Not only does that not qualify as a salad even under southern law (and we make salads out of macaroni, eggs- anything you can mix with mayonnaise), but I’m not even sure that is a legitimate food.

French Fry Salad and all, Fontana Dam/Robbinsville was full of personality and we loved making memories there. I can’t wait to visit the next town along the trail!

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Will on 3/14, his first day in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Today (3/16) he reached Clingman’s Dome, the highest point on the Appalachian Trail.  It is also the 200-mile mark!

Today marks 21 days on the AT and Will is doing an amazing job! We’re updating the Instagram account (@thetreelogs) regularly, so check it out. Thank you, thank you, thank you to everyone who has followed along and offered words of support. You make this so much more fun!

-Meridith