Appalachian Trail Solo Thru-Hike Odyssey – Chapter 1

NOTE: I’m using my mother-in-law’s iPhone, not my usual PC keyboard, so I apologize for brevity and any clumsiness. This is no way to write.

I also apologize for not responding to other WordPress essays. Just too much happenin’ here.


I started May 2 and am now halfway through the Great Smoky Mountains. Just exceeded 200 miles. A lot of thru-hikers have evidently dropped out due to the rigors, or a terrible spell of t-storms in Georgia. So I feel good that I’ve stuck with it.

No hikers are observing COVID-19 precautions. While I’m vaccinated, those others are taking a risk. But as they say, “Hike your own hike.”

I spent one overnight in Franklin, NC and am now on my second, in Cherokee, NC. (Most thru-hikers stay in kitschy Gatlinburg, but that carnival town’s not my style. Would rather give my business to the Cherokee Reservation than G-Burg mercantilists.) Otherwise, I’m in a tent or shelter in the woods.

Physical issues: toe and heel sores, but using moleskin & changing socks regularly, so no major blisters. Losing weight, which is concerning, since I’m scrawny as it is. Just dined delightedly on Indian taco w/frybread and strawberry/rhubarb pie. Wearing compression socks to fight age-related varicose veins and “Disney rash.” Pretty common amongst us oldsters.

Looking down on Nantahala gorge

Mental issues: miss my family…and morning coffee, “Leave it to Beaver,” and a dozen other rituals of civilized living.

Mileage: averaging around 14 per day, which was my goal. These partial rest days detract from it, but are almost essential (caloric boosting, cleanup, bodily rest, etc.)

Best day so far: today, because trail was forgiving, went through hushed pine forests, and summited Clingman’s Dome (highest point east of Mississippi River).

Worst day so far: yesterday. Constant steep ups and downs, trail a rock and root-littered trench.

People: mainly amazing. Met a Ridgerunner with prosthetic leg. Young overweight woman averaging only seven or eight miles a day, but headed solo for Maine. “Black Mountain Gang” from Asheville, NC: three bright, generous guys and two courageous gals in early ’20s who pull each other along and give me renewed faith in the Millennial Generation. And others, including John and Jessica of Knoxville, Tennessee, who responded to my outstretched thumb, burned gas in Cherokee to locate my motel, and and gave me two much-appreciated beers.

Still don’t feel totally confident about “embracing” this strange lifestyle, and reaching Maine. But if I can nail the Virginia state line, that will be my watershed moment, my litmus test. We’ll see.

Thanks for following and supporting me and my cause, American Foundation for Suicide Prevention! (See earlier post.)

– OMOO (my trail alias)

At Fontana Hilton Shelter. I’m smiling because I just had a rare hot shower.


11 thoughts on “Appalachian Trail Solo Thru-Hike Odyssey – Chapter 1

  1. Thanks for the update, Pete. Moleskins are lifesavers. In 1981, my brother and I spent five days hiking across Banff and wouldn’t have made it one day without them. We were young men and full of juice. I can imagine what it is like at our age now. Keep me posted as you approach the Mason Dixon line. I’d like to ride out and meet up with you. I reckon that’s a few weeks off, eh?

  2. OMOO ! I appreciate the post and can only imagine the highs and not-so-highs of the life. Stay well and rest assured, you hit VA – I hit VA. Best wishes always and if there’s anything you want/need (that we can help with) let us know. Thinking of you, Pancho

  3. Love this guy so much and will keep on motivating him to continue. After almost 35 years of marriage, I am happy to have him doing what he loves.

    • Well Lynn, you’ve known him a lot longer than I have, and in person too, and you have earned your stripes.!! Further to that , you are a prize Peter is very proud of, and you have given him a long leash to take this much needed walk, a break from the daily wash of current events. Kudos to both of you and a safe and happy homecoming at the end of the trail. It is a life adventure.

      • Thanks! He let me venture off to Scotland twice and my solo trip to Berlin a couple of years ago. We must be somewhat adventurous!

  4. Pingback: Appalachian Trail Solo Thru-Hike Odyssey – Chapter 5 | longitudes

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