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• The scariest thing that’s ever happened on a hike –I remember in 2008 being caught in a severe storm on Tinker Ridge and literally running, with a full pack, to get off the ridgeline; while a tree, about 50 feet away from me, exploded from a lightning strike.
I believe that was the scariest incident I have ever experienced.
• Distance covered on the A.T. – I have hiked right at 2,300 miles on the AT, although I have not yet completed the whole trail; however I will be finishing this summer. I have always been an avid reader and as a child read the book, My Side of the Mountain and since then I have wanted to be in the wilderness. In 2006 I hiked my first section of the AT in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. I knew then, somehow, I would hike the whole thing. I did my first long distance section of the AT in 2008, when I completed the southern half in 71 days. Since then I have repeated the southern half with a hiking partner and will be doing the northern section in 2012.
• How I got my trail name–My trail name is “Stripper” and I was bestowed that name by fellow trail maintenance workers while working with the Appalachian Trail Conservancy Smoky Wilderness Elite Appalachian Trail Crew (ATCSWEAT Crew) in the Smoky Mountain National Park. We were putting in waterbars to drain the water off the trail to help control erosion. I was working with two large men and they used an ax to chip the bark off the log we used. When it was my turn I pulled out a pair of pruning shears and snipped a section of bark about an inch wide and proceeded to “strip” the bark off the log. I was told I was “the best tree bark stripper” they had ever seen. From that day on, I have been known as “Stripper” and earning my name in such a fashion was an honor, while giving back to the trail I love.
• Favorite stretch of trail –I’m not sure if I have a favorite section. Every single step on the AT is different; each brings its own challenges and rewards. The climb up Sassafras Mountain in Georgia is extremely grueling, but is also one of the most rewarding. Albert Mountain is difficult, but has some of the most beautiful scenery on the AT. Overmountain Shelter would be one of my favorites because it overlooks the valley and has the most spectacular view of the stars I have ever seen. Tinker Ridge, Annapolis Rocks, and McAfee Knob have a beauty that is nearly indescribable.
• The coolest thing that’s happened on a hike –In 2009, my hiking partner and I had come into Blue Mountain Shelter during a driving rain to be told by an extremely well dressed hiker that we would have to tent out because there wasn’t any more room. A young man, around the age of 20 with spiked hair, tattoos, piercings, and very ragged equipment and clothes looked at us and said, “You guys are small, you can have my spot.” Later, the ridgerunner came in and realized she had forgotten her pillow; the young man got up, took off his army jacket and gave it to the ridgerunner to use as a pillow. He lay back down and covered himself with a blue nylon tarp with a short-sleeve shirt on. That was all he had as sleeping gear. I learned that day, that it matters not how someone looks on the outside and to never judge someone based solely on what type of equipment they have because the inside most certainly may not match their inside. I have found it is usually those that are dressed the best that usually are the most uncaring.
• Something I wouldn’t hit the trail without–One thing I would never hike without would be a mechanical pencil and pad of paper. I love writing and journaling. I will spend an hour or so on a rock over looking a valley writing down my thoughts and feelings while I hike. I have so many thoughts while I hike and I love writing those thoughts down so I can remember what I was thinking while on the AT. Every time I step foot on the AT I learn so very much about myself, my God, my family, and what is important to me. It is a spiritual journey every single time. Being on the trail is a time where I can be in the moment and focus on what is going on around me, and be in touch with emotions, feelings, and who I am. It truly is more about the journey than the destination.
You can check out Stripper’s blog right here.
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