“In the Spring, I have counted 136 different kinds of weather inside of 24 hours.”
~ Mark Twain
It’s that time of year again – Springer Fever is going around. NOBOs are making their way up the Appalachian Trail on their way to Maine, and, alas, I’m not one of them this year.
But I do have the next best thing available to me – I live in a trail town. Since most thru-hikers “zero” – as in zero miles or a rest day – in my hometown of Franklin, NC, it’s a perfect opportunity to catch up with thru-hikers and share a little trail magic with them.
It’s fun too! You ought to try it sometime.
Anyway, I met Three Mile, also known as Fred Beck, through our Google Plus Thru-hiking Community. It’s amazing how quickly you can get to know a perfect stranger – with similar interests – in such a short time on Google Plus.
So even though we’ve known each other for a while, this past weekend was the first time we met face-to-face. And, if that weren’t exciting enough already, I got to meet Fred’s wife, Debbie – or Little D – too.
Hikers generally have a lot of chores when they get to a trail town; things like doing laundry, resupplying, replacing gear, eating, bathing, resting, and…eating. I was very grateful that Fred and Debbie found some time to have lunch with me. (Woohoo! Another opportunity to eat!) We had a lot of fun and lots of laughs! (Thanks, guys!)
Hopefully the following highlights from our conversation will give you some idea of what it’s like to hike the AT, a little insight into why people, like Fred and Debbie, hike it, and how much fun it can be.
Where Do You Live and What Do You Do When You’re Not Hiking?
Fred and Debbie are wedding photographers in Kansas City. And good ones, I might add.
What Are The Most Commonly Asked Question From Non-hikers?
- Where do you go to the bathroom?
- How do you carry six months of food?
What Are Your Trail Names?
For those who don’t know, a trail name is a nickname that is given to you when you are hiking. Fred is known as “Three Mile” because whenever anyone asks him how far it is to the next shelter, landmark, or town, his answer is always three miles.
Debbie goes by the trail name “Little D” which was shortened from “Little Debbie Short Legs.” But don’t let the name fool you. She’s already taken on some tough mountains and beat them.
What Is Your Funniest Experience So Far?
In trail terms, Fred and Debbie are still in their AT infancy. They’ve walked just over 100 miles – including the 8 mile approach trail to Springer Mountain (I added that for you, Debbie). With over 2000 miles yet to go, there are plenty more opportunities for funny things to happen.
Fred’s funniest experience so far was when they stopped for a rest and a BIG dog, named Moose, peed on his backpack.
Debbie’s funniest moment happened when she was asleep, cozy in her comfy sleeping bag, dreaming of looking for a toilet. You know where this is going, don’t you? The sudden sense of relief. That warm feeling. Well she woke up just in time to dash out of the tent to relieve herself. It’s one of the many things that happen on the trail where you can look back and laugh about it.
What Is Your Favorite Equipment?
Fred loves his Sea-to-Summit sleeping bag liner (it came in handy when the temps dropped into the teens) and their Nemo LOSI 3 person tent (which nearly folded flat in the strongest winds they’d ever experienced one night, but snapped right back without breaking – note: impressive product plug by Fred).
Debbie’s favorite; her nighttime pee jar (see her funniest experience above).
How Have You Managed To Stay Warm At Night Sleeping On The Ground?
Temperatures have been brutal this year, even down here in the south. Fred and Debbie, using 20 and 15 degree bags, have managed to keep warm at night by sleeping on a Big Agnes sleeping pad on top of a Thermarest Z Lite – no more cold ground for them.
What Is Your Most Memorable View So Far?
No question! It was Albert Mountain, NC (5250 ft) for Fred. They were lucky to have a clear, sunny day and he said you could see forever. (His runner up for most memorable was the rock scramble up to Albert Mountain.)
Debbie suggests you take in the nighttime view from atop Tray Mountain, GA (4430 ft) if you’re looking for the best view so far on the AT.
What’s Your Newest Experience So Far?
For Debbie, it was hitchhiking at Winding Stair Gap…and she had beginners luck right away. Debbie, Fred and another hiker were standing along the road when some guy pulled up in a little green Miata, jumped put, pointed at Debbie and said, “I’ll take her!” To which, Fred replied, “That’s my wife. Take him.” And pointed to their friend.
Did Fred and Debbie ever make it into Franklin? Sure! But not without the scariest ride of their life. They were in the back seat of a car going 80 MPH down Winding Stair Gap – you know, one of those scary “Trucks Use Low Gear” kind of curvy mountain roads. They made it to town alright, but were grateful to get out of the car.
What Are You Looking Forward To The Most As You Hike Up The AT?
Fred has a special place in his heart for Newfound Gap (5048 ft) in the Smoky Mountains. He’s hiked up to it and driven over it many times, but he’s never crossed Newfound Gap via the AT.
Taking in the view of Harper’s Ferry from the AT keeps Debbie motivated to keep going.
What’s Been Your Hardest Day So Far?
Kelly Knob (4280 ft) in GA gave Debbie a hard time. It was one of those days. She reached the top of Kelly Knob in tears almost ready to throw in the towel. She bumped into a couple of 19 year old thru-hikers resting at the top who told her Kelly Knob kicked their asses too. It helped to lift her spirits to keep going.
What’s The Latest You’ve Stayed Up At Night?
What’s The Earliest You’ve Gotten Up?
(Hmm. That’s more sleep than I get. You’d think it was hard work hiking the AT. ;-))
What’s Your Reason For Hiking the AT?
Fred and Debbie are celebrating their 30th wedding anniversary by hiking the AT. Isn’t that romantic? Seriously! I can’t think of any better way to celebrate 30 years of marriage. But, then again, I’m a hiker. Congratulations by the way!
Time To Go
I picked Fred and Debbie up Sunday morning at their hotel and got them safely back to the AT, driving a respectable 55 MPH. We said our good-byes and hugged at the trailhead. Last time I saw them they were following white blazes into the woods northbound from Winding Stair Gap, refreshed and ready to go.
Happy trails, Fred and Debbie. Thank you for sharing your thru-hike with me. I’m looking forward to your updates.
It’s hard to sum up two weeks of hiking in one lunch. If you’re interested, you can learn more about Fred and Debbie and follow their progress by visiting their blog, TheTrailBeckons.com. (Deb is also a contributing blogger at AppalachianTrials.com.)
Who knows? Maybe I’ll meet you on the AT some day too. Let me know when you’re passing through the Franklin, NC area. It would be fun to get together.
See ya’ on the trail,