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Runtrails' 2005 AT Journal
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"What a journey! I feel like I've known you and Jim for a long time!  I have your site listed on my favorite listings right on top, where it's been all summer. It was always the first site I checked on every day. NOW what am I going to do!"
- Randy, in an e-mail on 9-27-05

 Dream big!  Sue adding a rock to the cairn on the summit of Mt. Katahdin on September 24, 2005.

We received several letters like this in August and September as our trek was winding down or had just finished. Folks were used to reading the journal at breakfast or during lunch at work, and now the adventure was over or almost over. The letters made us smile because we could relate.

Although we're certain some of the comments were written "tongue-in-cheek," we know the feeling of enjoying an adventure story so much that it's hard to see it end. We take time to savor it a little while, then pick up another good book - or find another web site - and read about someone else's journey into the unknown. It's fun and fuels our own desire to explore the world and challenge ourselves in some way.

Never stop dreaming! But don't just dream or live through other people's adventures. Work to make it happen in your life, too.

In early September (Day 131) I quoted Jerri, another reader who was ambivalent about seeing our story end, and I promised everyone that I'd do an entry later on with suggestions for other hikers' journals to read. I realize this isn't quite as much fun as following along with a runner or hiker in "real time," but some of these journals and web sites are quite interesting after the fact. At least two of the men are still hiking; I will identify them clearly so you can follow the rest of their journeys.

Hikers/runners are listed in two parts because there are so many (hey, I deliver on my promises!):

  • those who hiked the AT this year or previously, divided by location of their journals - the Trail Journals web site or their own site (Part 1)

  • and those who have done various types of journey runs or hikes on other trails and roads in this country and around the world (Part 2)

I haven't had time to read every entry in every web site below, but it's been a lot of fun to at least scan all these sites.


The best web site I have found for hikers' journals is Trail Journals at The majority are AT hikers, but other trails are also represented (Pacific Crest, Long Trail, etc.). This site is a gold mine of information and can keep you busy reading for the rest of your life! I used it last winter and this spring while I was doing research for my own trek.

It's pretty easy to find hikers by trail, year, real name, or trail name on this site. Just type the information into the search box. I've had better luck using trail names than real names.

You can also scan down various lists, such as hikers preparing for 2006 hikes, and read ones that interest you. That's how I found some names when I was looking for older hikers (my age) planning hikes in 2005. If you want to follow some folks in "real time," choose several this winter who are planning their hikes for 2006 and see how far they get next year!

When I first go to an individual hiker's page on Trail Journals, I click on "About" and "Trail Name" to learn some auto-biographical information about the person. Some hikers put that information in their prep pages. There are also gear and mail drop pages. The prep pages, daily entries, and post entries are in a drop-down menu top left.

Here are some AT hikers' journals on the Trail Journals site that I recommend for your reading pleasure. There is something for everyone:

JAN "LITESHOE" LEITSCHUH, 2003 thru-hiker:

I mentioned Jan several times in my prep and daily entries. She has the most widely-read journal on the Trail Journal site and for good reason - she writes so eloquently! I read every word in her journal before starting this spring and took copious notes to use during my own hike. Despite the fact that Jan had already completed her hike, I was "hooked" immediately on her journal and read it in a relatively short period of time. Part way through her journal you'll discover why she wrote in such detail; the reason warmed my heart. If you have time to read only one AT backpacker's journal, hers is the one that I most highly recommend you read. No, I haven't met Jan but we've corresponded a bit.

"BUMPO" AKA NATHANIEL (NAT) STODDARD, 2004-2005 section-hiker:

I love adventure stories that also demonstrate courage and determination. Many AT hikers' experiences fit into this category, as you will see when you begin reading journals such as Nat's and several of the other hikers below. Nat also writes very well and you'll find yourself rooting for him to get back out on the Trail again real soon. Nat takes his nickname and Trail name from the character "Nattybumpo" in James Fennimore Cooper's book, "The Last of the Mohicans." Like me, he's had the AT Dream for over 30 years. Unfortunately, he still has work obligations in NYC and cannot take the time away from his business to do a thru-hike. In 2004 he managed to hike 967 miles before injuring both knees and a tibia from overuse. This spring he tore a rotator cuff in one shoulder and broke a rib roller skating with some kids, but returned to the Trail and hiked another 235 miles in 2005, for a total of 1,202 AT miles. He's determined to finish the Trail. This is one of the hikers whose journey you can still follow in "real time." Check out his journal and be inspired and entertained by his wonderful sense of humor! I'm sorry I didn't run into him on the AT this summer.

"DAD'S GRIN" AKA RICHARD SMITH, 2005 thru-hiker:

I don't believe Jim and I have ever met Richard. If we have, it would more likely have been at an ultra race than on the AT because he's also an ultra runner and has completed several hundred milers. Richard wrote to us this past weekend after seeing information about our trek in the November issue of Ultra Running magazine (see Part 2 in the next post). Richard is 59, newly retired (well, mostly retired), and lives in Florida. He was ahead of me the whole time on the Trail, starting March 6 and finishing on Katahdin August 13. He was surprised to find Blake Norwood, race director of the Umstead 100-miler, near the summit! (No, Blake and I aren't related.) I've had a chance to read only the first few days of Richard's journal, but I immediately liked his sense of humor and writing style and intend to go back soon and read the whole journal. I've also encouraged him to write some post-hike entries.


Richard began hiking the AT March 13, so I was reading his journal before I started my own trek. Beware: he's nearly as verbose as me and had even more prep entries than I did (41)! He's another person I cared about even before meeting him. About 60, he was recently retired when he hit the Trail. I was delighted to finally meet this gentleman on Mt. Lafayette in the Whites on Day 118.  (There is another photo of him on that page.) Despite having to quit temporarily in the Smokies for knee surgery in the spring, Richard came back out to complete his thru-hike this calendar year - another story of determination. He had to be very careful of his knees the remainder of the trek, especially in New Hampshire. After summitting Katahdin in September, he returned farther south to complete several more states that he skipped in order to get New England finished before the weather turned wintry (he did a flip-flop). In his last entry on October 24 he had just under 200 miles to go to be all done. I assume by now that he has finished Pennsylvania and is back home with his wife and son in Virginia. Check out his site; he writes well.


Robin is just a couple of years younger than me. She had a limited window to hike the AT because of her teaching job at a college in Connecticut - she started hiking two days before I did but finished September 6 (plus another day to go back and hike two river sections that were flooded in Maine). She did a traditional thru-hike with a full pack, too. 'Way to go, Robin! We first met on Day 23 and gave her a ride to a hostel in Erwin, TN. I don't remember seeing her again after that. Her entries are shorter than some of the others, but interesting to read. I wish I'd had more time to talk with her.

Here are some younger hikers whose interesting journals you can find on the Trail Journals site:

"SWEEPER" AKA MATT KIRK, 2001 AT thru-hiker who also did the Long Trail that year and the Colorado Trail in 2002:

Matt, who was only twenty when he hiked the AT, is an ultra runner we know from North Carolina. His father, David, also runs ultras and his mom, Patti, is very supportive of both of them. Matt kept an extensive AT journal that is interesting to read. He's always looking for more trail adventures, whether he's running or hiking.


Jim and I both saw this delightful couple in several states and were able to give them a ride to the Post Office in New Hampshire on Day 116. Sarah and Matt, who really were hiking on their honeymoon, successfully finished at Katahdin the day after I did. After the hike, they moved to Asheville, NC. Talk about a memorable way to begin a marriage!

"BREAK-A-LEG" AKA JESS WILSON, 2005 thru-hiker:

Jess is a young, vibrant woman who is funny and irreverent. I started reading Jess' journal before I began my trek and was pleased to meet her on Day 107 in Vermont. If you read her page called "About" you'll get an idea whether you want to continue reading her entries. She's a trip! When I saw her on the Trail in Vermont on August 14 she was personable but much more subdued than in the journal. Her last entry is July 27. I saw her after that but don't know if she reached Katahdin. I hope she did. One of these days I'll write to her and ask . . .

"APPLE PIE" AKA ARLETTE LAAN,  2005 thru-hiker:

While crewing for me, Jim saw Arlette more times than I did. I got to meet this enthusiastic young woman from the Netherlands in Boiling Springs, PA on Day 64 and never could catch her again because of all the time I took off in July. I kept seeing her comments in trail registers and she finished a week or more before I did. I believe Arlette said she has finished the Triple Crown, although I don't see journals on all three trails in Trail Journals. After finishing the AT this summer she went to Nepal to hike the Annapurna Circuit. Busy gal!



I first met this retired couple in Pennsylvania on Day 64, then caught back up to them in New Hampshire, their home state. I enjoyed playing leapfrog with them the last few weeks. The photo above is from Day 140 in Maine. Several times I found them relaxing along a stream or on a rocky overlook, reading a book. They always seemed to be having fun and enjoying the journey. They finished the day after Jim and I summitted Katahdin. It was great to see them in the campground at Abol Bridge and know they were going to reach their destination, too. Although Sue and Bill have a couple entries on Trail Journals, their complete journal and photos are posted on their own web site at

"POKEY" AND "GUMBY" AKA DIANE AND SCOTT, 2005 thru-hikers, in photo below with their hiking buddy, "Red Wolf," who is in the foreground:

I first met the "Over-Forty Club" ("OFC") on Day 52 in the Shenandoah Mountains in Virginia. I immediately liked them and was happy to see them several more times, including Day 85 in PA and Day 97 in New York. This is another group that I came upon several times reading in a relaxing spot along the Trail. Diane and Scott are from Minnesota. They finished at Mt. Katahdin on October 5 and the photo on their main page appears to have snow in the background! See for their journal and photos.

"ASLAN" AND "GODSPEED" AKA JONATHON AND MARK, section-hiking father/son team who finished in 2005:

Jonathon and Mark began their AT journey as an intended thru-hike in 2002 but were delayed when Jonathon, then only 18, was diagnosed with a brain tumor. The story of how they discovered the cancer is just amazing. After chemo and radiation and recovery, father and son resumed their inspirational journey this year in Virginia where they left off three years ago and finished on Katahdin the same day I did. What a thrill that was for them! I saw Mark and Jonathon near the top as they were descending. I first met them on Dragon's Tooth in VA on Day 44, just a few days after they resumed their hike. We spoke only briefly in the rain and didn't exchange names at that time. I learned their story and took the photo above when I saw them next in Vermont on Day 106. Their web site is Although their entries are shorter than most, their story will certainly grab your soul.

"BLACKBIRD" AKA SCOTT, 2005 section-hiker:

Looking for some major changes in his life, Scott intended to complete a thru-hike this year but ended up incurring several injuries, illnesses, and a household move during his hike. His attitude about the adversity is introspective, as shown in his August 3 entry, for example, of lessons learned mid-way through the 1,050 miles he was able to complete this year. Scott started in Georgia a month before me on March 31. He flipped from Virginia to Vermont in August so he could hike the three northernmost New England states before winter set in, summitting on Katahdin September 25, a day after me.  I can't remember where I met him. This is another one of those instances where I remember our conversation and what the Trail looked like, but can't for the life of me recall what state it was! <sigh> Even though it sounds like Scott found much of what he was seeking inside himself while he was on the Trail, I hope he is able to complete the remaining miles someday if that continues to be his goal. See  

"FLYIN' BRIAN" AKA BRIAN ROBINSON, thru-hiker extraordinaire, shown below with his father, Roy:

Brian is best known for being the first person to complete the "Triple Crown" in one calendar year (2001), the nearly impossible task of speed hiking the Appalachian, Pacific Crest, AND Continental Divide Trails. In fact, he did it in just under ten months. There aren't that many folks who've done all three long trails in their lifetimes, let alone less than one year! Brian did a second AT thru-hike in 2004 with his girlfriend, Sophia Lewis AKA "Silver Girl," taking a three-month hiatus in the middle when Sophie broke her foot - another AT comeback story. Brian's father, Roy, did an AT thru-hike in 2002. The journals of all three hikers can be found at


OK, all that should keep you busy for a while! For more inspiration and "How did they do that?" stories, see Part 2 in Post #17.

"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil, Cody, and Tater

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2005 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil