To the Top of Mount Katahdin

Will completed his Appalachian Trail thru-hike on August 7, 2016!

[[ let’s journey back to the day before the summit…]]

When I landed in Bangor, Maine after midnight on Saturday – much later than originally planned thanks to several flight delays – I realized that it was technically already Sunday, the day that I would hike to the top of Mount Katahdin with Will and he would finish his journey that started way back in February in Springer Mountain, Georgia. This was the day we had been anticipating for months, and the thought should have excited me. Instead, my anxiety only worsened – I had a lot to do before summiting the mountain with Will.

I grabbed the keys to my rental car at the airport and headed for Millinocket, Maine, about an hour’s drive from Bangor. I had never been to Maine before and, in preparation for the trip, I learned this: Maine is scary. Fact: my GPS would fail, my phone would lose signal, there would be nowhere in sight to get gas or to stop for directions, and I would end up stranded and alone alongside one of upstate Maine’s dark, open country roads.

And it wasn’t just the drive to Millinocket I was nervous about. Once I made it there, I had to drive the next leg to Baxter State Park (by 6am the next morning) to meet Will, and THEN I had to make it up Mount Katahdin – the tallest mountain in Maine – on four hours of sleep and no practice. (My pre-hike research via TripAdvisor described the mountain as “very intense” and “not for the faint of heart.” Eeek.)

All of this is to say that, when my plane landed, besides feeling anxious about the obstacles ahead, I was frankly a little irritated at Maine. The thought of traveling down dark, empty roads and possibly losing GPS and cell signal at any moment (I didn’t, by the way) annoyed me. Also, in planning for my visit to Baxter State Park I learned that the park has no electricity and no cell service. I had to reserve a parking spot weeks in advance and I had to arrive at the gate 45 minutes before it opened if I wanted to make it through in time to meet Will. Maine was not making this easy. Why were they so behind the times? Where were my modern-day comforts? And why all the rules?


I learned the “Why” on my drive – that dark, empty, quiet drive from the airport in Bangor to the tiny map dot of Millinocket, Maine. That drive that I had been so scared of. I learned it in a moment when I looked up to see the biggest, brightest stars in the clearest sky I had ever seen. It soothed me and it stirred me at once, as first glimpses of nature’s grandest sights – oceans, mountains, skies – tend to do.

It was then that my heart softened toward Maine. If Maine is “behind the times,” maybe it is purposeful. And maybe they don’t make rules because they are uptight and demanding,

but because they have something worth protecting.

It was then that I realized how much we need Maine – and all of the remote, inconvenient places like it. We need majesty; we need grandeur. Sometimes more than we need comfort.

When I finally met Will at Baxter State Park early on the morning of August 7, 2016, we began our trek up the Great Mount Katahdin. If I admit my fears of being stranded on the side of the road earlier may have been a bit irrational, will you trust me when I say my fears about that Mountain were actually completely legitimate? It was STEEP. It was ROCKY. It was LONG. If the weather had been anything but perfect, I truly do not think I could have made it to the top. If there had even been the smallest drop of rain, the rocks would have been too slippery for me to grasp. (This was more crawling-bouldering-rock scrambling-pushing/pulling-lifting than it was “hiking.”)

When we made it to the top, my entire body and mind ached. I collapsed immediately on a rock. Will smiled, walked up to the Mount Katahdin sign, had a special moment, and then we took pictures. There were probably 30 other hikers at the top, too, laughing and snapping photos and eating their Nabs. There were no fireworks or confetti or TV crews, but there were a lot of really happy, proud people.

We rested, we celebrated, and then we hiked (crawled/scrambled/slid) back down the Mountain.


As Will adjusted back to “regular” life in the weeks following his thru-hike, the question he heard over and over from interested friends and family was simply: “how was it?” But how do you summarize a 5+ month hike crossing 14 states, over multiple types of terrain, through every season?

Will’s time on the trail was a collection of moments – both good and bad – moments that stretched him and taught him and instilled in us both a deep appreciation for our country’s natural beauty and for the people who work hard on its behalf. I’ve learned that there are two versions of the Appalachian Trail: there is the physical trail itself – the wooden signs and the dirt paths, the boardwalks and the blazes – built and maintained over decades by hundreds of dedicated volunteers. And then there is the Appalachian Trail as a subculture – a collection of hikers, trail magic-givers, shuttle drivers, townspeople, hostel owners – who pour their hearts into the trail and what it stands for. There is this subculture of hiker parades and ice cream challenges and cold Cokes on the side of the road – and a feeling of camaraderie that requires nothing more than shared experience to sustain it.

I’ve seen people give and give – to themselves, to the mountains, to strangers they’ve never met before and will probably never see again.


Because some things are worth protecting – and that goes both for the sky and the trail before us, and the desire to explore and achieve within us. God has given us both and they are good.

Meridith and Will, aka Root Beard



From New Hampshire to Maine

A sample from Will’s trail journal, 7/12/16:

mt. view - july

“Today would be the day we’ve been talking about for a good while. Mt. Moosilauke was looming over us even at the hostel last night. Known as the gateway to the Whites! We got up and ate breakfast at the hostel, then started hiking. It was hard finding the trail in some spots today since the AT follows other trails through this section. The climb up the mountain wasn’t too bad, spread out over 4.5 miles. The views were awe-inspiring! The first mountain up here to truly break tree line. The hike down was treacherous! Couldn’t imagine doing it in anything but perfect weather.

Took longer to go down than to come up. Ate some lunch at a picnic area before continuing on into a steep and rocky 7 miles to the shelter. Sometimes you’d just be hiking along and come to a rock wall. You’d ascend the wall by grabbing on to trees and sheer force of will, then you’d walk a ways and you’d walk up to a cliff, descending the same way. There was mud that when you stuck your trekking pole in it never touched the bottom. Had to rock hop and/or bush whack around those areas. Tough, tough day but worth it in the end. Got to camp about 8 and did everything quickly but still ran out of day light. Only 8.8 tomorrow but another tough day climbing Kinsman mountain first thing. Staying in town tomorrow night.”

We are officially in countdown mode, and I am SO EXCITED!  Will’s summit of Mt. Katahdin should take place on August 7th, if all goes well. That’s exactly three weeks from today!

Rootbeard still has quite a bit of hard hiking left to do, including the 100-mile wilderness, the wildest and most remote section of the entire AT. So he’s a little preoccupied. I am trying to stay busy as well (mostly by singing Hamilton songs morning, noon, and night) to pass the time, but it’s difficult to wait for it, wait for it

Thank you all for sticking with us on this journey. It’s so much more fun experiencing this alongside you! We want to invite everyone to a welcome home gathering for Will at The Factory Coffeehouse in Mocksville, NC on Saturday, August 13th. If you’re around, I hope you’ll drop in and say hello. More details to come on that!

-Meridith (@thetreelogs)

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.

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)!


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!


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, 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.


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!


A Million Flying Bugs

This weekend in Pearisburg, VA we found a beautiful area called Whitt-Riverbend Park. It featured a large, fast-flowing river, open grassy spaces, and a train that ran just above the water. What a scene! So picturesque, so scenic, that it makes a girl want to pack a bag and hike the Appalachian Trail.

Except. There were these little gnats EVERYWHERE. When you stopped long enough to smile for a picture, there they were, trying to settle down on your eyelashes and dive into your ears. I was in shock by how relentless these little buggies were (nature, how could you turn on me like this?!), but Will just said “welcome to my world.” I don’t think I’d do well in his world.

Now that the weather is warm, the animals – and tiny flying bugs – are making their appearance at every turn. Will has seen a bear and three snakes in the past week!

In other news: last week Will got food poisoning and it slowed him down a bit. He’s back to 100% and has started this week strong. There is only one problem – his shoes (or clodhoppers, as my grandpa calls them). The Hokas are not holding up well – in fact, they are falling apart after less than 200 miles. For comparison, the Brooks Cascadias lasted a solid 500 miles on the trail, and Will had them for a year before he even started his hike. So the Hokas are a huge disappointment.

Will contacted the company and explained the situation; they said he could send the shoes in for an evaluation and they may be able to send him a replacement. His plan is to buy a new pair of shoes in Troutville, VA this weekend and stick the Hokas in the mail. They don’t make clodhoppers like they used to.

Speaking of Troutville (aren’t the names of these places the best?)… Will is on his way there! I’ll meet him in Troutville – only 20 minutes from Roanoke, VA – on Saturday. This will probably be the last time I will see him for a while. If everything goes according to plan (when has that ever happened?), this is Will’s schedule for the next month:

4/30 – Troutville, VA (near Roanoke) – mile 729
5/7 – Crabtree Falls campground, VA (north of Lynchburg)
5/14 – Skyland Resort in Shanendoah National Park, VA (north of Harrisonburg)
5/21 – Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia (considered the “psychological midway point” on the AT!)
5/28 – Boiling Springs, PA (south of Harrisburg)

Talk to you soon! Don’t forget to check out more photos on our Instagram page, @thetreelogs.


No Words Necessary (But I’ve Included a Few)




Vast expanses, dense forests, waterfalls, sunsets, soft snow, and all the shades of blue in the Blue Ridge Mountains. As I filed through Will’s photos to “curate” this gallery of images, I was amazed at the diversity of scenery – wild and unfiltered – as seen through his eyes. These photos tell the story of his journey in a way that words cannot.

And now for a brief update: last weekend included Will’s parents and nephew, Christopher, a log cabin on the river, and lots of duck-watching. Damascus, VA has our hearts, now more than ever.

Tomorrow Will hits mile 547 – the 1/4 mark on his 2,188-mile journey! This is great, big, HUGE news! See jumping photo above!

Thank you for sticking with us – all of you, in all of the various ways you have stuck with us through your words and tangible expressions of love (I could, and will, write an entire post just on that). That’s all for now!