Days 9-16

Before I start detailing our hiking week, let me tell you how much we appreciate you for following us along our journey. We are definitely reading all your comments, but it is proving difficult to reply to all of them in a timely manner. The way things have been going, we have taken a couple of nights off-trail here or there in a hotel or hostel, and that is the best time for us to write replies. Please keep sending your thoughts and encouragements here and on our YouTube channel— we are reading them, and they inspire us to progress up the trail.

Speaking of time in town, our days 9-10 were spent in Hiawassee, Ga. We stayed at the Budget Inn there and had a very relaxing time. As you may see in our videos, the second of those nights was as much for avoiding nearly single-digit temperatures as it was resting and recouperting. While there, we treated ourselves to the AYCE buffet at Daniel’s Steak House, which was superb! We gorged ourselves on the Southern fare of Salisbury steak, fried chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, and lima beans. It was fantastic.

One of the things we were most looking forward to on this trip was meeting people. I have to report that we have made some really wonderful friends. Before our trip into Hiawassee last week, we had been bumping into a guy about my age from Winnepeg named Travis. With the thought of saving money in mind, we decided to double-up on the hotel room last week. We have continued to hike “together” this week, and are once again next-door neighbors. We both agree that we’ve been placed in each other’s paths for a reason. He and I are alike in many ways, not the least of which is that we are not early risers. He is a patient soul and has been quite an encourager for Gavin as well. I believe that he is one friend from the trail that I will hope to visit in the years to come.

I also mentioned Rick, from PA, in one my videos. We met Rick at Neel Gap and spent a couple of days staying and hiking with him. He actually got off-trail an extra day to visit some family friends in the early part of the week, but he caught back up with us on Day 14 just before we arrived at the Long Branch Shelter. He, too, has been quite a friend to Gavin, and we’ve been blessed to have him along on this journey. Though he stayed here last night, he hit the trail again this morning, but I’m sure we’ll meet up with him again in the next week or so.

When we left Hiawassee on Wednesday, we hiked nine miles to Bly Gap campsite. This was a really cool place to stay. We had a ridgeline wrapping up and around us, and there was a piped spring right in the campsite. I cannot overstate how wonderful it is to have a water source right in the campsite rather than 01-0.2 mile away. Travis and Gavin started a fire and we were joined by Father Time and Gator. We were also later joined by a young lady (I can’t remember her name) who started four days after us. She just finished at UNC and is hoping to complete the trail by the end of July so she can get to med-school orientation on August 1. We had a good time getting to know one another.

Day 12 was onward 7.7-miles to Standing Indian Shelter. We had a really pretty day for hiking this day and saw several views. One thing that was particularly neat that day was a bird that perched on a log long enough to be photographed. So far, wildlife has been scarce, but I did hear an owl one night, which was really cool.

When you seen the Day 13 video, please forgive me for its shortness in length. It rained on us most of the day so I didn’t take much video and there were no views to photograph. We did summit Standing Indian Mtn. which was no small feat at 5,435’. Thankfully, much of the rest of the way was downhill to Carter Gap Shelter. Our temperature was in the low-30’s starting out, but thankfully our gear kept us warm and mostly dry. When we got to the shelter, there was room enough for Gavin to squeeze in, but it got crowded pretty quickly as other hikers arrived. I was able to get a small break in the rain to pitch my tent, and I slept mostly in the dry. The water source for this shelter was a muddy slog a few tenths of a mile downhill, but thanks to the suggestion of another hiker, we set our pots down outside the shelter to catch rainwater dripping off the roof. We accumulated more than enough water that way to do us for the night and the morning.

Our final long day of hiking this week was Saturday, a trek of 8.7 miles to Long Branch Shelter. This was hands-down the nicest, newest shelter we have stayed at. It was bi-level and could probably sleep 16-20 folks, but we only had around ten or so. We all had room to spread out, and we slept well, even though it rained quite a bit on the tin roof overnight. We also reconnected with Kevin and MJ, now Sunkist, whom we met early on along the trail.

Sunday morning we had a short hike to Rock Gap, where we caught a shuttle with Travis to Franklin, NC, where we’ve spent the past two nights. In addition to resupplying our food, it is really nice to spend a day or so resting and letting our muscles heal. There is great comfort in being stuck in a hotel room with only a few items other than eating on the to-do list.

One of the important to-do items for today was to get Gavin some new shoes. Though he started with a new pair of Altra Lone Peak 4’s, we quickly found out that there was not nearly enough “shoe” in them to protect him from all the rocks and roots we have been traversing. As a consequence, his calf muscles had to work overtime to absorb all the shock from his hiking which has lead to him having foot pain. That discomfort, in turn, has caused his hiking pace to slow substantially, especially late in the day. We spent about two hours with Rob from Outdoor 76, an AT Shoe Legend, who helped Gavin get a different pair of shoes that will hopefully see him many comfortable miles up the trail. We are both appreciative of the time Rob took carefully measuring Gavin’s feet, asking lots of questions, while going through several “trial” pairs of shoes before Gavin could settle on just the right ones. Please be prayerful that these are indeed the right shoes for Gavin.

My pains have been mostly in my knees, but not while hiking. I am an active sleeper, starting on one side, then to the other, and then on my back. When I’m on my sides, I keep my legs bent, but when I get on my back I straighten them out. That is when I get a searing pain down the outside of my left (and sometimes right) knee. I think it is the IT band, but whatever it is, I wish it would stop. I think it is because I am restricted in how much I can move my legs around in my mummy sleeping bag. Last night in bed, I experimented with different ways I might sleep in such a compact space with the hope of alleviating the problem. I also wonder if letting just a little air out of my sleeping pad might be helpful. I will report in next week with my progress. In the meantime, I’ll keep doing Vitamin-I (ibuprofen) at night with the hope of getting a more restful sleep.

The highlight of the week was hitting the 100-mile mark atop Albert Mtn. on Saturday. At 5,250’, the climb up Albert Mtn. was a rock-scramble that was near vertical at times. I had a slightly easier time of it than Gavin because of my longer legs, but it was a tough but fun climb for both of us. Unfortunately, the weather was uncooperative and we had no views for our efforts. Gavin climbed the tower, but he only went higher into the clouds, still seeing nothing. At least we were able to use our little tripod to take a picture together at the top.

In the coming week, we’ll wind up at the Nantahala Outdoor Center near Bryson City, NC. Beth and I have been there before on a rafting trip, but I don’t think the boys were with us yet. Another highlight will be the Wayah Bald tower at mile 119.5. There is a stone tower there, and according to the weather I’ve seen, we should get some views. I’m really looking forward to that.

As always, thanks for joining us on this journey. Please leave us words of encouragement in the space below. Even though we don’t reply daily, we’re reading your comments, and they are very meaningful to us. If you have time, please check out our YouTube channel which is linked in the menu above. I’ve uploaded several videos while in town the past two days, and they will come out every day or two. God Bless, and remember to keep taking the Next Step.

Days 5-8


On Day 4, we wound up at Mountain Crossings at Neel Gap. They have a hostel and an outfitter, and word is, 25% of people who start the trail at Springer Mtn. wind up going off-trail there. Out front, there is a huge tree with the boots of folks who gave up the ghost early. We stayed in the hostel on the night of day 4. There we met Rick from PA and Red from Indiana and we agreed to “slack-pack” the next day. For us, that meant getting a shuttle from Mountain Crossings up the trail about 8 miles to Hogpen Gap. We carried only water, rain gear, and a few snacks, so the hiking was much easier. We were able to do the whole eight miles in about four hours. That night the four of us shared a cabin at Gooch Mtn. Cabins.

 After a second night indoors, the four of us got a shuttle ride back to Hogpen Gap and we hiked northward again. Our plan was for Red, Gavin, and me to share a cabin at a hostel that was down a trail off the AT. I got a text from Red that he had missed the turn-off, so he went on down to Unicoi Gap and got a shuttle into the cabin. Gavin and I saw the side trail, but it was 1.4 miles downhill, which meant we’d be doing the same trip uphill the next morning. Since Blue Mountain Shelter was only 1.5 miles up the trail, we opted to head on up the trail. I hope we didn’t put Red out any, but I told him we’d make it up to him up the trail somewhere. This turned out to be an 11.9-mile day, our longest and most difficult yet.

From Blue Mountain Shelter we had a 7.6-mile day to Tray Mtn. Shelter. The day started off with a 200’ climb, followed by a 1,000’ descent to Unicoi Gap where we were met with Trail Magic from BSA Troop 134 from Decatur. We had hot dogs and sodas and headed back up 1,000’ to the summit of Rocky Mtn. That was followed by a nearly 1,000’ descent, which was followed by about 1,500’ uphill to the top of Tray Mtn. The shelter was down the back side of the mountain a short distance. Though the mileage of the day was on par with what we’d been doing, this was definitely our most arduous day of hiking. We slept well, and slept in a little bit, and were the last ones to leave the campsite.

On Sunday we hiked from to Deep Gap Shelter, a distance of 7.9 miles. Gavin really put on the afterburners and left me in the dust. We met up with Jukebox and Timber and hiked much of the day with them. They are definitely much younger than me, but Gavin was able to keep pace with them. Thankfully, they stopped and waited on me periodically. With about 1.5 miles left, we were climbing Kelly Knob and it started to rain. I got my pack cover on, and pulled on my rain jacket, but didn’t take the time to mess with my rain pants. This was a huge mistake! I was hiking in shorts, and in a short time, they were soaked. Thankfully, it wasn’t too cold. Yet. We made our 8 miles in about four hours, which was a new speed record for us, though I still trudge slowly uphill. Gavin and the younger hikers beat me to the shelter by 20-30 minutes. On the way up, I met up with Rick again and we finished the day’s trip together.

When we got to the shelter, there were folks all around trying to get in, get settled, get dry, and get warm. I went down to the privy and switched into my dry wool base layer and covered back up with rain gear and my down puffy jacket. We wandered around the awning for a while watching it rain and waiting for an opportunity to go pitch a tent. Finally, it let up enough for me to do that, but it wasn’t a completely dry pitch. Oh well, live and learn. Gavin stayed in the shelter and made bunches of friends. He brought some waterproof playing cards with him, and he has had much fun playing Egyptian Rat Slap with folks. All the other hikers have really accepted him as one of their own because he has hiked the same miles that they have. They are all really impressed with his tenacity and grit, and the fact that they’re in the company of a not quite 14-year-old thru hiker that is doing as well as they are.

This morning it was about 25° when we left the shelter. It was a real joy putting on boots that had frozen solid overnight. I slept with my water filter so that it wouldn’t freeze and become worthless. We had a short 3.6 mile trip today to Dick’s Ck. Gap where we were picked up by a shuttle driver for the Budget Inn in Hiawassee, GA. We’re staying here for the next two nights because the temperatures are supposed to drop into the low teens. I haven’t looked much farther out, but I expect we’ll have some snow in the coming week. Yay. We are sharing a room the next two nights with a hiker from Winnepeg named Travis.

We had supper tonight at an all-you-can-eat buffet called Daniels Steak House. It was really good- salad bar, fried chicken (and chicken livers), and Salisbury steak, mashed potatoes, and Lima beans! Yummm. Unfortunately, Gavin, who usually picks at his food and isn’t accustomed to eating large meals, ate too much, too fast, and wound up with a stomachache. There were 8-10 other hikers at our table and while Gavin was in the restroom nursing his stomach, they were all amazed at how well he is doing on the hike. They couldn’t stop going on about how well he is hiking, fitting in, and making friends. They are all in awe that he is able to make this trip as a 13-year-old. It made me really proud to be his dad!

I’m going to close by revisiting a tired subject, that of trail names. If you’ve kept up with our posts, you know I’ve been toying with two trail names, Next Step and Aftermath. Funny story: I met a girl on the trail the other day and told her I was waffling between two names, but she misunderstood. She thought I said my trail name is Waffle. Needless to say, it is now. The good thing is, though, that when I explain my name, I can tell the stories of both the trail names I set out with. Gavin was first called Hawk by So Far, So Good, but after we met another Hawk who is planning to yo-yo the trail (Springer to Katahdin, and back), he picked up Hawkeye because of his ability see things that others miss.

I think the thing I’ve enjoyed most so far about the trail is meeting complete strangers and becoming instant friends. We’re all out in the woods walking the same miles, through the same rain, uphills, and downhills, so we have a shared experience. Hanging around the shelter the past two or three nights has given us a chance to make new friends, and we’ll be hiking around each other for the near future until the younger group get their trail legs more quickly than me and start hiking longer days. By that time, though, others will catch up to us, so there will never be a shortage of folks to meet and socialize with. At some point, we’ll fall into a group that has a similar pace and we’ll form a trail family. That will be really cool.

Thanks for following our posts. I’m doing the best I can to get some videos out, but the WiFi in our hotel isn’t strong enough for me to post. I’ll keep trying. Blogging and blogging on the trail has turned out to be harder than I expected because by the time we reach camp, all we want to do is eat and go to bed. I am also not flexible enough to sit cross-legged and type. I really need a chair and flat surface to write, and so far, the picnic tables at the shelters have been too wet to do that on. I’ll try to do better.

Again, thanks for following our journey. I am trying to respond personally to comments, but the same eat/sleep routine gets in the way of that as well. Please do keep sending them, though. It is very encouraging to hear from friends and strangers who wish us well. Prayers are appreciated as well, especially for the uphills that I’m struggling with so. I guess I need to just keep taking the Next Step.

Days 1-4

Greetings, and thanks for checking in on us. We’re four days into hiking and have covered 30 miles so far. We’re inside tonight at Mountain Crossings hostel  at Neel Gap. We’ve done about 8 miles each day so far. Our first night was at Hawk Mtn. Shelter— Gavin slept in the shelter, but I pitched my tent. Both of us slept comfortably. We were greeted at Hawk Mtn. by Santa from Atlanta, whom I have seen in several videos. It was cool to meet a trail “legend,” or at least someone with quite a bit of trail experience. Our second day was to Gooch Mountain. I was planning to tent again, but there weren’t enough flat space to set up so I wound up inside. Santa was there again and has really taken Gavin under his wing. Day 3 was another 8ish miles to Lance Ck. Reforestation area. Ho, ho, ho! Santa was there again. We got a bit of rain last night, but thankfully it finished doing what it was doing before we got going. Today was our hardest day. We climbed Blood Mountain, which was the toughest climb yet, but the views from the top were phenomenal. We met a guy who was trail running who told us a little about the area. On a better weather day, we would have been able to see the Atlanta skyline from the peak. The trip down to where we are now was incredible. To this point, all of our downhills have been gradual and earthen. Today, it was nothing but rocks on top of rocks, but we made it here.

Gavin has been dealing with foot pain for the past day or so, but last night we were fortunate to meet a young woman from Finland who actually had a spare pair of insoles. They seemed to make all the difference for Gavin today. I dealt with a bit of knee pain on the last of the uphill and definitely on the downhill, but it seems to have abated.

To go back to the beginning, we started “hiking” on Saturday. We did the steps up to the top of Amicalola falls. 605 steps! Thankfully, there were landings along the way to stop and put my lungs back where they belonged. Also thankfully, we were with family, and the view was phenomenal.

I would also be remiss if I didn’t tell you about Alaska and his hiking buddy. We met them Sunday at the summit of Springer Mountain, the southern terminus of the trail. Alaska was toting a single-shot pellet rifle for hunting birds and other small game. His buddy was carrying a 14” skillet dangling from paracord on the outside of his pack. They were definitely packing heavy. They were with us the first couple of days, but “Skillit” hitched off the trail yesterday from Woody Gap with the intention of doing work-for-stay at a hostel until he could lighten his load. I don’t know of Alaska’s fate. Thankfully, Gavin and I are much more prepared, but we still have heavier packs than we need.

Edit, 3/4/19: though “Frying Pan” is off trail, Alaska has dropped the pellet gun and an extra pack and is still moving up the trail. We have crossed paths several times and stayed with him last night at Deep Gap Shelter. He is also here with us at the Budget Inn in Hiawassee tonight and probably tomorrow. My turn to eat crow and to learn not to trust first impressions.

As I mentioned above, we arrived at Mountain Crossings, which is a hostel and outfitter right on the trail. They will do a free pack shakedown to give you suggestions of things that you should send home to save weight, and they’ll also suggest items that you may need that you don’t already have (and I’ve heard they’re more than willing to sell it to you.) We’ll have them look through our packs tomorrow. I’m sure they’ll suggest that I ditch my iPad and keyboard (about two pounds worth, together), but I’m still holding out the hope that they’ll be worth it when I feel like writing/editing at the end of the day. Right now, I have been in bed between 7:00-8:00 each night and it is still hard to get up and get going. I’ll be interested to see if they can save us any other weight. I expect our cook kits are too heavy to make it all the way to Maine.

I notice that I am supremely rambling here, but in my defense, I am exhausted. I  am going to go ahead and end here. I am hopeful that as we get into better shape, and on days when we are hiking less distance (or at least finish earlier in the day), I will be able to blog more often, and more thoughtfully. I am also hoping that in the next day or so I can put up some videos on YouTube. What I hope I can do is do one video each day and schedule them to come out one day after the others. So far, we have footage for the first four days, but it’ll take me a little while to put them all together.

Again, thanks for following our journey. We’re having a great time, sore muscles not withstanding. We’re supposed to get rain tomorrow, so pray for us. And always remember to keep taking the “Next Step.”

**Note from Beth: Rob wrote this last night with the intention of my editing and posting this morning, but due to a slight miscommunication, I am just now posting it. They have actually finished hiking for the day (day 5) and are back in town. They “slack-packed” today, which I’m sure he’ll tell you all about in his next update. Anyway, sorry for the delay, and thanks for reading!

Q & A Post

“What are you guys going to eat out on the trail? Berries and ramps?”

It is a fairly common question and the answer is, “Yes.” At least the berries part. Blueberries are rampant (sorry) along the trail once they come into season. Actually, ramps are too, but I’m not so sure about those. Never had ‘em.

In truth, for most of the trip we will be able to get into town every 3-4 days. When there, we’ll shower (yeah!), do laundry, and resupply our food. We’ll also have the option of sleeping indoors in one of the many hostels and hotels in towns along the trail. Even though there are few grocery stores adjacent to the trail, hostels usually provide shuttle service into town for meals and resupply.

Gavin and I did our initial food trip today. I hope we got everything we need. Actually, I’m sure we did, and then some. So what do we eat? Here is our startup menu:

Breakfast:

  • Oatmeal
  • Carnation Instant Breakfast
  • Coffee/Hot Chocolate
  • Cliff Bars
  • Powdered Milk

Lunch:

  • Tortillas with peanut butter & raisins or pepperoni & cheese
  • More protein bars

Snack:

  • Peanut M&Ms
  • Snickers
  • Dried Fruit
  • Slim Jim’s
  • Cheese
  • Fruit Gummies
  • Nuts

Supper:

  • Knorr Pasta or Rice Sides
  • Ramen noodles
  • Summer Sausage
  • Spam
  • Chicken in a pouch

All the above is typical hiker fare which will be heavily supplemented with cheeseburgers and pizza when we get into town.

When on the trail, we’ll be burning 3,000-5,000 calories/day. That averages out to about two pounds of food each day. What I’ve learned about backpacking food is, the more calories, fat, and protein, the better. This seems incredibly wrong to me, but I’ve heard that even though a hiker’s diet is largely junk food (think honey buns for breakfast) for six months, all the extra exercise day in and day out makes it all okay. On a hiker podcast I was listening to today, the 50ish host said his cholesterol levels just off the trail were the best they’ve ever been.

Even though we’ll be eating tons of food that is high in calories and as light in weight as possible, I still expect we’ll lose a bunch of weight. It is not uncommon for a hiker of my stature to lose 40+ pounds along the journey, even while eating and snacking all day long. About a week into our trip, we will develop “hiker hunger,” which is akin to the “see food diet.” For all the demands being placed on our bodies, we will develop an insatiable appetite and will somehow still lose weight. I’m looking forward to that part. I just hope I can turn it off when we get off-trail.

“Are you going to sleep in a tent for the whole six months?”

Yes and no. As I mentioned above, we’ll be able to sleep indoors at least once a week if we want to. Our options in the woods are either our tents or shelters, which are 3-sided structures that are located every 8-15 miles along the trail. They will be a welcome site (see what I did there?) when it is raining or snowing, but my feeling right now is that I’d rather stay in my tent as often as possible. Shelters tend to be crowded, especially in inclimate weather. I’d rather not have to climb over and around folks if I need to get up in the night. They also tend to be a hotbed for norovirus.

“How far are you going to hike each day?”

We are intentionally planning to start slowly to mitigate the chance of early injury and to give our bodies time to adjust. Our stop/start locations will be largely dictated by shelter and campsite locations which are spaced fairly closely together early on along the trail. In the first two weeks, most of our planned days are less than 8 miles, but there are a couple that are 11.5ish. Since we usually hike at a pace of around 2 mph, this will mean 4-6 hours hiking each day. This will give us plenty of chance to acclimate ourselves to the trail. We will also be able to stop to rest and enjoy the views without feeling the need to push onward. Most important, we will arrive in camp with plenty of time to set up in the daylight.

Once we get farther up into NC/TN and definitely VA, we’ll develop our “trail legs,” meaning we will be in top physical shape and can do longer days. I expect that through Virginia, we’ll be able to put up 15-20 mile days with regularity. That will keep up until we get into New Hampshire where we will confront the White Mountains. Because of this section’s difficulty, most folk’s mileage is cut in half there. There is even one area, Mahoosuc Notch, which is called, “the most difficult mile on the AT.” Here, we will be climbing over, under, and around house-sized boulders. It takes most folks 1-2 hours to complete this single mile of the trail.

“How will you keep in touch with folks back home?”

Though there will be periods of interruption, we should have cellular service most days while we are on the trail. With luck, Gavin and I will be able to call home and check in, or at least send messages at the end of the day. We are also bringing along a SPOT Personal Locator Beacon which was loaned to us by a friend. It is a satellite-based GPS unit that will ping our location every 30 minutes. Beth will be able to “see” us on a map, and when we don’t have cell service I can have it send a precomposed message such as, “Made it to camp and are doing okay.” It also has an SOS button on it that will summon wilderness rescue personnel should we find ourselves in a dire situation. Hopefully we won’t accidentally hit that one! For that matter, I hope we don’t hit it on purpose either. With luck, we’ll have enough service to update the blog frequently, if not daily.

“What about bears? Are you taking a gun/bear spray?”

No. There is really no need for a gun for protection on the Appalachian Trail. If the bears have read the same books that I have, they know that they’re way more scared of me than I will be of them, though I’m not really sure that’ll be the case if I encounter one on-trail (mental note: pack extra underwear). The only real danger from bears is getting between a mama bear and her cubs. Bears only come around humans to get their food. For that reason, we will either be hanging our food from a tree limb or putting it in bear-proof containers provided at many shelters. Unfortunately, some people are careless with their bear-hangs, or they just don’t bother. When bears begin to associate humans with food, it usually ends badly for the bear. Last summer there was such a bear in the Grayson Highlands section of the trail, just across the VA line. Because of the bear’s frequent assaults on food bags, a 20-mile section of the trail was closed for camping in that area. Unfortunately, bears that become a nuisance are generally euthanized. Thus the saying, “A fed bear is a dead bear.”

Congratulations! You’ve made it to the bottom of another lengthy diatribe where I try to use as many big words as possible! Gavin and I really appreciate you for following us along the trail, and we hope you’ll send us comments with words of encouragement as we hike northward. If you would like to be notified by email when we post, just put your address in the subscribe box in the right margin of the page. Also, please check out our YouTube channel; subscribe if you like. It is linked at the top of this page.

Trail Names, Revisited…

In a previous post I described a trail name as an alias taken on by a hiker on the trail. People are more commonly known by these pseudonyms than by their real monikers. In that post, I waxed philosophic about the name “Next Step,” and how it may be a suitable trail name to use on my hike. On our December hike in the Smokys, though, Gavin suggested another trail name that I’ve been considering. It is truly incredible how creative he is, and he has a special mastery of the pun.

We were standing in the shelter packing up after a restful night’s sleep and he said, “Dad, I’ve got a trail name for you: Aftermath. Get it? After. Math.” For the uninformed, I have spent the past 29 years teaching high school and community college mathematics. My first impression was that it was a creative name, but I didn’t give it much thought because I was somewhat vested in “Next Step.” Since then, I’ve had some time to ruminate over the name and it has grown on me somewhat.

When I initially looked up the word online, the first thing I saw for a definition on Google was, “consequences or aftereffects of a significant unpleasant event.” That didn’t sound too good. Though I had some of “those days,” and a very few students over the years that I didn’t particularly care for, I certainly wouldn’t deem my teaching career as a significant unpleasant event. I also hope that I’m not a consequence or an aftereffect. Those seem to be quite negative terms. Then I looked on down the page for other definitions.

The Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/aftermath) has “consequence” as the second definition. As Cliff Clavin, of Cheer’s Fame, would say, “It’s a little known fact that…” aftermath dates to the late 1400s and refers to a “second-growth crop.” It seems that in older British English, math refers to mowing a hay crop. Thus, in its originally used form, the word aftermath refers to the second planted crop. Further in the entry, it is stated that this second crop was often used for grazing, or plowed under, presumably to add nutrients to the soil. At least in this sense, aftermath seems to be a helpful thing.

I have to confess that I started writing this post on January 17, and it has been languishing on my hard drive since. I just haven’t been able to come up with a decision or a proper ending. While I truly want to honor Gavin’s creativity, I’m still somewhat selfishly stuck on Next Step. As I wrote in my Trail Names entry, I am partial to that name because of its multifaceted meaning to me and to my hike. I have discussed both names with Gavin, and while he is proud of the trail name he came up with, he understands why I like Next Step. Truth be told, it is still highly likely that I’ll do something dumb on trail and will become known to others as Wrong Way, Breaks the Wind, or something equally as embarrassing, and all the mental effort I’ve spent in this deliberation will be for naught.

At least for the present, I think my decision has been made. I am honored to introduce myself to you by my trail name: Next Step. Now I’ll turn the keyboard over to Gavin to share his thoughts about trail names.

Hi! This is Gavin again, and I’d like to share my thoughts on trail names. I really like the concept of trail names, because they are a way of getting to know someone. I feel like a trail name is more personal when it is given to you based on of your characteristics or actions on the trail. This makes it feel more meaningful to me when other people pick out your name, and that is why I’m going to leave the option of my trail name up to you, my readers, and to those whom I’ll meet along the trail. Whether or not I regret this decision remains to be seen. Do any of you have any suggestions? If so, post them in the comments below. Hopefully, I will be able to respond to all of your comments before the trip.

In the meantime, I’ve been thinking about the trail name Little Bear, because I’m so bad at throwing bear hangs and so good at climbing trees. If you’re wondering why this is funny see the article about the Pisgah National Forest trip. There, we got attacked by a bear. Well, we didn’t get attacked, but our food got attacked by a bear because he was really good at climbing really small trees. In closing thank you for your time. Your comments and suggestions are always appreciated, and remember to just keep taking the Next Step!