When Edwin Thullen decided to hike the Appalachian Trail he had several challenges to overcome. His sheer size made gear acquisition a formidable process, but he gathered what he could and headed for Georgia. The previous winter had been spent living out of his car, so he was expecting Georgia to be warm. It wasn’t. Watch the astonishing physical and mental transformation that Bear undergoes as he learns how to do a thru-hike on the fly.

 

  

 

Follow Bear’s journey as he constantly readjusts his expectations for his eventual finish and modifies his gear to meet the many challenges along the way. His is a story of resilience that will make you laugh, bring a tear to your eye, and fill you with admiration as he battles on toward his goal. The fact that our conversation has a happy ending is a bonus that will please all of you.

 

 

John Boyet returns this week with advice on what to look for when you are deciding upon which backpack to buy. You can ask more of John by emailing him at john@trailwalkergear.com

 

Don’t forget that you can still pledge a few bucks for my Last 10,000 Feet Challenge to support Family Partnership Center here in Bradenton, Florida. My John Muir Trail is being dedicated to this great cause. Email Bridget Harry at the center at bharry@familypartnership.org. Thanks so much for the support.



Bethany Varner completed her hike on July 1 this year. She had zero overnight backpacking experience, yet she adapted so well to the challenge that she was even able to squeeze in a cruise with her boyfriend while on the trail. On the way, she rediscovered her faith in humanity, sharing her journey on YouTube with an ever-growing following. She also blogged regularly, at The Trek.

 

 

 

You can see some of her photos from the trail on her Instagram account, and if you happen to tweet from time to time, why not follow her on Twitter?

 

 

Without any updates from Attie, John Boyet has stepped into the breach by providing us with some excellent gear advice while I’m away on the John Muir Trail. If you have any questions for John, just email him at john@trailwalkergear.com.

 

If you’d like to follow part of my hike, I’ll be posting on Facebook at When I’m 64. Also, if you’d like to pledge a few bucks to the child abuse prevention agency which I’m supporting on this trip, just email Bridget Harry at the agency at bharry@familypartnership.org. Thanks so much for any help that you can give.

 


When Robby King and his daughter, Meredith decided to hike the Appalachian Trail, his wife Nancy decided that she could support them far better by driving an RV to various road crossings and providing them sustenance and a bed for the night. While Robby and Meredith covered the standard 2,200-mile length of the Appalachian Trail, Nancy chalked up over 10,000 miles of driving to back up their effort. Their story eloquently demonstrates the importance of familial love and support as hikers take on this daunting challenge.

 

  

 

The physical changes, particularly in Robby, show the toll that this hike can take on the physique, yet with each of them encouraging the other, they made it to the end just a few weeks ago for that picture of pictures at the top of Katahdin..

 

 

Not only did Nancy feed and house her family on the trail, she took a major responsibility in ensuring that their blog was kept up to date. You can follow them here.

 

This episode features the last interview I’ll be able to do with Jessa before I leave for California. She only has a few weeks to go and I’m very proud of the part our podcast may have played in helping her during her hike. I’m also, of course, ridiculously proud of Jessa herself. When I return I’ll be doing a complete program with Jessa, her boyfriend Nick and her mother Joan. If you can’t wait until then, follow her blog and see how she fares.

 

If you’d like to pledge to support my hike of the John Muir Trail, which I’m doing to support families in my local community, please consider pledging a few bucks for Family Partnership Center by emailing Bridget Harry at bharry@familypartnership.org.  Thanks to everybody who has done so already.



This week’s guest is another from the Class of 2014; Tim McGann, or Tadhg. He shares his story with us and provides the perfect example of how the trail always provides. Indeed, on his first date with Erica, now his wife, she enthusiastically embraced the idea of his hike and supported him along the way, ultimately summiting Katahdin with Tim at the conclusion of his journey.

 

   

 

Tim can be found on Facebook and would love to hear from any old friends he may have met along the way.

 

 

 

I was able to catch up with Sarah Williams (Tough Girl) from a previous episode. Sarah is attempting to complete the AT in 100 days and, at Day 50, it seemed like a good time to catch up mark her progress. You can follow Sarah’s journey on her YouTube channel, though the posts are currently behind this 50-day mark.

 

I had the chance to speak with not only Attie this week but also Joan, her mom. Sadly, I won’t be here when Attie summits Katahdin, but I will be doing an episode in September when I return from the John Muir Trail that will cover Attie’s reflections of the trail and of course her conclusion at Katahdin. Don’t forget. If you can’t wait to find out about Attie’s progress, she’ll be publishing her blog right to the end.

 

Thanks so much for supporting the show so far. If you’d like to support my John Muir Trail hike with the “Last 10,000 Feet Challenge” for a local child abuse prevention agency, Family Partnership Center, please either email your pledge or contact Bridget Harry at the center at bharry@familypartnership.org. I appreciate everybody who has done so already.


Jan Leitschuh, at the time more comfortable on a horse than hiking through the woods, found herself contemplating a thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail following the death of her mother in 2001. To prepare, Jan hiked over 500 miles, including the entire length of the Long Trail. In 2003, she was ready to go. She had already done a trail journal from the Long Trail so it seemed natural to keep that idea alive on the AT. Her journal was all the more remarkable because this was nearly 15 years ago, before the iPhone. Jan used a device called Pocketmail. Reading the journal now gives us a great representation of what it was like to hike the AT at that time. The link above takes you directly to the AT story, though you may find yourself reading her Long Trail journal as well.

 

 

 

Jan also produced a book about her Long Trail journey. You can link to that here.

 

You can reach out to Jan via Facebook.

 

I’ve added a little section about my own return to the Appalachian Trail in the first week of July. We had a blast and I produced this silly little film just for the fun of it. I clearly have waaaaay too much time on my hands. In the picture below we are, from left to right, Lefty Righty, Skeezix, Golden, Sherpa, Skates, Mighty Blue, and Turd Ferguson.

 

 

Attie continues her quest and is now in Vermont. Her renewed enthusiasm for the trail has been a delight to me.

 

Once again, thanks to those of you who have supported my Last 10,000 Feet Challenge by pledging money to the Family Partnership Center here on the Florida Gulf Coast. It is so much appreciated. If you’d like to support, just send me an email to steve@mightyblueontheat.com with a figure for how much you’d like to pledge and I’ll only be coming back to you for the pledge if (when) I complete my John Muir Trail adventure in August.

 

Returning once more to Jan, today, along with her regular hiking activities, Jan has taken a role in a farm to table co-operative in the Sandhills of North Carolina. It is an interesting website that may be of interest to some of you if you’re in the area.

 


Chrissy is a woman who came to the trail in search of herself. She had endured a difficult personal life and fallen out of love with the person she had become. While the trail can’t provide every answer, it can certainly soothe, perhaps even heal, one’s soul. She posted several visceral videos on her Facebook page and seemed to be conducting a thorough self-assessment. The trail had several surprises for her, with the latest surprise coming on the day that I posted this episode. Listen to my comments after the interview to do a complete catch up with Chrissy.

 

 

 

If you’d like to contact Chrissy, you can email her directly at CFunkWin@gmail.com. Alternatively, she would love you to follow her on Facebook.

 

 

Talking of catch ups, I was delighted to hear from Jessa after missing out with her last week when I was back on the AT with the Fat Guys, and Gals, Back in the Woods. She continues to power forward and I can’t help feeling a little paternal about her. Go Attie / Jessa.


Digger was one of the guys I met during my 2014 journey and, as often happened, this short acquaintance proved to assist me in my own hike. Once he’d completed the AT, Digger went on to many other adventures, including the PCT, the Camino and a kind of freestyle journey through France, England and, ultimately Ireland. Digger is currently plotting a beautiful trail through Italy with his 10-year-old daughter, Rosie.

 

 

He was also involved in a little bit of controversy over his somewhat exuberant celebrations at the top of Katahdin. Frankly, after over 2,000 miles, I would have thought that wouldn’t be too much of a problem. Oh well.

 

 

The one below is the more restrained version. You can connect with Digger via Facebook or just check out his YouTube channel.

 

 

No Jessa this week, so I had John Boyet on the show to give us a few tips on what to look out for if you’re in the market for new boots or shoes.

 



I was introduced to Craig McPherson by a listener. He sent me a link to Craig’s final video, one that served to represent a summary of his hike of the Appalachian Trail in 2016. It was arresting, to say the least. I’ve since sent this video to several friends who have been similarly moved and I can say with some authority that this is exactly how the trail feels. Interviewing Craig was just as riveting, for me. He was able to articulate several of the emotions that hit you during a thru-hike. I’ve also watched a number of his other updates and, together, they stitch together as good a representation of a thru-hike as I’ve seen. They certainly put my cinematic efforts to shame. If you’d like to see more of Craig’s journey, just click on the link below and you’ll be taken directly to his YouTube page.

 

 

If you’d like to connect directly to Craig, email him at athiker117@gmail.com

 

 

***THERE IS A CURSE WORD IN MY READING FROM MY BOOK, SO BE PREPARED IF YOU LISTEN WITH CHILDREN***

 

Attie / Jessa continues to push forward, giving me less than full information on her somewhat lackluster attempt at the Half-Gallon Challenge. There’s always a story behind the story! This is the last update for a couple of weeks. When we next hear from her it will be the middle of July.

 

I mentioned my “Last 10,000 Feet Challenge” in the show, which turns my John Muir Trail hike into a fundraiser for an organization very dear to my heart. If you’d like to learn more about the organization or, better yet, to donate to the cause of protecting children, click this link.



Kelly Anderson is a former professional tennis player from South Africa. She came to the US to attend Georgia Tech in their tennis program before taking up coaching positions, first at USF and then as Head Coach at Stetson. She even has her own Wikipedia entry! A chance meeting with a number of AT thru-hikers intrigued her and planted within her a desire to take on the Appalachian Trail someday.

 

Deciding that she needed to do it sooner rather than later, she divested herself of many of her possessions and started from Katahdin 2016, heading south to finish at Harpers Ferry in December.  This year, she is back on the trail to finish what she started. Her tale of grit and determination is inspiring. The two pictures below are of Kelly on Mt Madison and, bizarrely, Kelly in rather strange loaner clothes on a launderette stop.

 

 

 

There are a bunch of ways to follow Kelly. You can email her, follow her on Facebook or Instagram, and go to her blog as she reaches the conclusion of her journey.

 

 

Jessa/Attie and Nick continue to travel north, with the halfway point approaching rapidly. You can also follow Jessa through her blog.

 

As a bit of a preview for next week’s show, I promised to add Craig McPherson’s video to really whet your appetite for our interview. Once you see this, you’ll get some of the magic that we used to see on a daily basis on the Appalachian Trail

 

Don’t forget that the price of my two Kindle books will soon be increased from $2.99 each to $3.99 each. Save a couple of bucks if you’d like to get the Christmas price mistakenly left up for over six months!!


This week, I’ve got another diverse array of guests from Trail Days in Damascus a few weeks ago. While I guess a parade of hikers could have been interviewed, I preferred to go with others associated with the Appalachian Trail, so I’ve managed to get another interesting mix together.

 

Dan Bedore is hiking a kind of alternative AT, keeping the pioneering spirit of the trail alive by spending large amounts of time totally by himself. He said that he preferred it that way. When I checked his website, bedore.org, I was amazed at the variety of trails that he has completed. For those of you wishing to go a little off the beaten track, Dan’s site is a good place to start. You can reach out to Dan at danshike@yahoo.com if you’d like to find out more about his journeys.

 

Next, I spoke with the first of the vendors this week. One of the Jacks, of Jacks R Better, demonstrated the Bear Mountain Bridge Hammock, based upon the design of a suspension bridge. It provides a flat sleeping surface. I was a little doubtful, but it was terrific. Had I seen this in 2014, I may have even considered a hammock. You can find out more about the company at the Jacks R Better website and this video demonstrates the setup of the hammock.

 

Eric Fox, the son of Alison and Bob Fox, hiked the AT a couple of years back. Bob wrote Eric’s story for him, in a really interesting family collaboration, called The Endless Trail. Check out the book on Amazon. You can also see more about the book at Bob’s website and Facebook page. Click on the appropriate link. Here’s a picture of the two of us.

 

 

Kyle Jeffreys introduced me to a very reasonably priced air pad. The company is Klymit, and I highly recommend their website. I tried out the Static V2. At just over $60, it is a bargain and extremely comfortable. The website will give you far more information, as well as some really excellent deals for somebody putting together a bunch of equipment from one supplier. Once again, click on the link that appeals to you.

 

Moe Lemire is a hiker who wanted to give back. Instead of just talking about it, he joined the NY-NJ Trail Conference, responsible for more than 50 miles of the AT in these two states. If you’re from that area, or simply want to see the great work that Moe and his team do, check out their website.

 

Eddie Hinnant was showing us The Packa, his very own invention, at Trail Days. He demonstrated his combination pack cover and jacket with the fervor of a man who knows he has done good work. Let Eddie himself show you in this video. If you want to learn more, go to Eddie’s website.

 

Lisa Quigley, representing the Virginia Creeper Trail, told us as much as she could in the few minutes we spoke. If you’d like to learn more, you can see their pretty website or even their Facebook page.

 

Finally, Dave Degler was kind enough to talk to me about the work of A Christian Ministry in the National Parks. I was so impressed with Dave and his charming team, three of whom are hiking the trail this year. If you’d like to learn more about the extensive outreach that they do, visit their website.

 

I hope that you enjoyed meeting some of the people at Trail Days. I’m really glad that I went, and I PROMISE, the audio quality of outdoor recordings will improve if I do this again!!

 

Charlotte Taney, a previous guest, was originally unsure about any concerns that she may have had prior to starting the AT. On reflection, however, it turned out that she had a few for this week’s Fear and Loathing on the Appalachian Trail.

 

Attie seems right back into it, so we’re both looking longer term than we had in previous weeks. I can’t tell you how delighted I am. I also know that I posted this picture a few weeks ago, but I wanted a Trail Days picture to go with the podcast on Facebook and this turns out to be it.

 

 

One last thing.

 

If you’ve read any of my three books and you HAVEN’T left a review, please do me a big favor and click on the appropriate link below to take you directly to the review page of that book. Thanks so much.

 

My Appalachian Trial I: Three Weddings and a Sabbatical

 

My Appalachian Trial II: Creaking Geezer, Hidden Flagon

 

Hiking the Appalachian Trail is Easy: Especially if You’ve Never Hiked Before.

 

By the way, remember that this last book is free at my author’s website, though I won’t be in the least bit offended if you want to pay me $2.99 for it!!