Originally Posted May 29, 2014 by Venture Outdoors

The Venture Outdoors Staff are super proud of Venture Outdoors Volunteer Trip Leader Charlie King, who is currently hiking the Appalachian Trail. Charlie has been a Venture Outdoors member since 2005 and assists and leads hikes, bike Amicalola SP Visitors Ctr rides, and kayak paddles.
Here’s Charlie’s story:
Amicalola-SP-Visitors-Ctr-300x225I started hiking on March 27, at the southern end of the trail on Springer Mountain in Georgia. Right now I’m in Daleville, Virginia, and I’ve hiked about a third of the trail, which runs for about 2200 miles to Mount Katahdin, Maine. If all goes well, I should finish up the hike in September.
I was in contact with VO Volunteer Trip Leader Laura Vayansky Edwards beforehand, and she gave me some tips from her experience thru-hiking in 2012.  She also sent me a tiny alcohol-burning stove, which was given to her by another thru-hiker. It’s making its third trip up the trail now. After I finish, I’m hoping to pass it on to another hiker. I’ll engrave it with our trail names first, and the years of our hikes.
I’ve been wanting to hike the trail ever since I did a week of hiking through the presidential range in New Hampshire with a navy buddy back in 1986. I’m using the same backpack that I bought for that trip-it’s an old-school external frame pack. The pack provides part of the motivation for my trail name-Shellback. That’s also a navy term for somebody who has crossed the equator on a navy ship (and also gone through the hazing ceremony).
I was also motivated by Laura, who told me about her plans to hike before she left, back in 2011. That kind of got me thinking about quitting my job and doing other things for a while.
I’ve been having a blast on the hike. I’m hiking with a guy from England who took six months off from his job to come hike the trail. He’s 56, and I’ll be 50 in a few days. He goes by “Trigger”. There have been all sorts of interesting people that I’ve met: we’ve done some hiking with a gal from Lake Tahoe who has already thru-hiked the Pacific Crest Trail; we met a fellow who goes by “Astro Guy,” who has piloted the Atlantis and Columbia space shuttles; we met jugglers one day; we stayed at a hostel that is run out of a restored log cabin that was found decades after being abandoned in the woods in VA (this place is called Woods Hole hostel-you can read about it online); and we rode a zip line across a creek to get free sodas from the refrigerator on the back porch of the house of a hiker-friendly guy called “The Captain” (he got that name because he looks like Captain Kangaroo).Trail, 5_25
I had a bit of trouble with leaks in my tent early on. One day it rained into the evening, and then the temp fell below freezing, and I woke up with blocks of ice in the tent, instead of puddles. I put on some new sealant over the seams in the fly, and the tent has been dryer now.
Some people bring their dogs along to hike with. My sister is getting her dog used to carrying a pack, and I might get him as a companion for a couple of weeks. I’ve also had a visit from a friend in Pittsburgh, who came down to Hot Springs, NC, and hiked for a couple of days.
I made it down to Damascus, VA, for a hiker festival called “Trail Days”, which included a hiker parade. I also took a day off from the trail to visit my cousin in Asheville, NC.
Trail-5_25-300x168I’m having a great time climbing trees and doing a little rock-climbing here and there. I’m also looking forward to doing a bit of kayaking when I make it to Harpers Ferry, which is close to the halfway point of the trail. I’m expecting to meet another friend from Pittsburgh there, and we’ll do a bit of hiking with his kids.
I’m getting most of my food through the mail, from my mother, who sets me up with mail drops. I got a bunch of dehydrated food in bulk before starting, with the goal of avoiding a lot of waste in packaging. So far that’s working out pretty well, though I sometimes supplement my food with things that I buy in towns. It is really hard to keep up with all of the calories that get burned by hiking, and most people lose weight even though we typically eat as much as we can get our hands on. Some people I’ve met have lost as much as 35 pounds. I’m a more diligent eater, and I’ve only lost about 10.
Happy trails to all!
-Charles/Charlie/Chuck/Roary/Shellback