Backroads: Appalachian Trail Odyssey Conclusion

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Success! Bob at the summit of Mt. Katahdin

In the June Gazette I wrote about Bob Geiger, a thru-hiker on the Appalachian Trail who left Springer Mountain, Georgia on February 1 and arrived at our cabin here in Love on March 29. Bob stayed with us overnight before resuming his trek to Mount Katahdin, Maine, a total of 2,193.1 miles on foot. The following are excerpts from his journal on the final leg of his amazing journey.

“Every state has its own beauty and it is impossible to pick a favorite. I am in New Hampshire now and its majestic, sweeping views are grand.

A moose feeding in Maine

“As far as wildlife, I haven’t seen any bears, moose or venomous snakes yet. So far, other than chipmunks, rabbits, and squirrels, it’s been 57 deer, 27 turkeys, 1 porcupine, 3 snakes, 1 owl, and a beaver. 

“My coldest temperatures were in the Smokies, where I had two days of 13 degrees, and a wind chill of who knows what! I knew a starting date of February was risky but I prefer to hike in 30-50-degree weather. Hot, humid weather zaps your energy, making water more of an issue through dry areas and worst of all, it brings out the bugs.

“I’ve hiked mainly by myself. There aren’t a lot of northbound hikers starting in February but since spring arrived, there are section hikers, flip-floppers, and people who left last year but stopped because of Covid and are now resuming their hike. I’ve hiked with others maybe 3-5 day stretches but mostly I’ve hiked alone. I’m okay being by myself but there are pros and cons to it.

Trail thru Pennsylvania (“Rocksylvania)

“I’m surprised my body has held up as well as it has. I’ve had a couple of scares; in Vermont I felt a pop in my right knee and a burning sensation. The knee gave me some issues for a few days but it never escalated into something major. There are dull aches and sharp pains everyday and at the end of each day I am 98% spent and hobble to my tent and go to bed stiff and sore. But in the morning, I get up recuperated and recovered. It amazes me every time.

“This adventure has taught me that thru-hiking is hard in so many ways.

It is logistically hard. The first issue is getting to and from the start and finish of the trail from your home. Daily logistics as how many miles to hike, where to stop, how rough is the terrain. Weekly logistics are resupplying food, getting a shower and doing laundry.

Franconia Ridge in New Hampshire

The weather is hard. Wet weather, coupled with cold temps put you at risk for hypothermia. Dry conditions affect water sources and proper hydration.

Trail hazards are hard. Damp, moss-covered rocks, roots sticking up, and wet granite slabs with no handholds are asking for trouble. 

Calorie intake is hard. It is impossible to eat more than you burn. Initially I lost about 25 pounds but have plateaued there. “Hiker Hunger” is the term given to the appetites hikers develop.

Physical and mental aspects are hard. Even with months of hiking, it continues to get harder instead of easier. I have stayed motivated by the challenge. I can honestly say I’ve never had a day where I thought about quitting. People say you should “hike your own hike,” and that’s exactly what I’m doing.

“There are a lot of emotions on the hike. There is a sense of accomplishment every day. Something awesome to see every single day. I’ve loved every single moment but I can’t wait to get back to my family. You get lost in the beauty and the experience and the reward is greater than the risk, the awesome outweighs the aches, the journey is worth the struggle. 

I am blessed to have made it to Maine. I told my daughter tackling the trail is just like you eat an elephant … one bite at a time!”

Bob “Notsomuch” Geiger reached the summit of Mount Katahdin, Maine, on June 24, finishing his Appalachian Trail hike just six days short of five months. His wife Lou Ann and youngest daughter Ellie met Bob at the base of Mount Katahdin and hiked up to Baxter Peak with him on the final day. And to his delight, he got to see not one but four moose before finishing. Congratulations on your hiking accomplishment, Bob, and many thanks for sharing your amazing journey with all of us here in Virginia. 

Bob, wife Lou Ann & daughter Ellie at the summit

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