K-less came into the Magic City Morning Star & Hard Drive Cafe on Wednesday, October 6, 2004, having summited Mount Katahdin yesterday. K-less is known as Ric Miller in Jacksonville, Florida, where he lives while not on the trail.
|K-less is also known as Ric Miller|
He left Springer Mountain in Georgia on March 5th, carrying a tent and a pack that weighed about 40 pounds, filled. Before taking on the challenges of the 2,194 mile Appalachian Trail, he had never backpacked before, and had done no training for the ordeal.
"It took me a little while to get warmed up," he said.
While there was never a time when he lost faith in his ability to complete the hike, he said that there were times when he wondered whether he wanted to.
"Everyone has moments," he said. "Hypothermia, Lyme disease, my father passing away." He did get off the trail in order to attend his father's funeral, and still needs to complete one small section of the trail that he missed while away.
Most nights along the trail, he camped out in his tent, but stayed in the shelters about 25% of the time. Shelters, found along the trail, are usually free and available to hikers on a first-come, first-served basis. Although some shelters have caretakers, most are unstaffed.
Naming the best experiences he had along the way, he included the people he met during the trip, on and off of the trail. He said that the trail registers helped a lot, as they provided a way for thru-hikers to travel at their own pace yet keep in touch with one another.
K-less said that Maine was the best part of the Appalachian Trail.
"Maine has been great," he insisted. "I'm not just saying that because I'm here," he added. "The 100-mile wilderness was terrific, Mount Katahdin, and the people, they are just so generous ... kind, kind people."
He didn't have to think very hard in order to name the worst part of the trail. It was New Jersey.
"There was no water in New Jersey," he explained. If not for the "trail magic" of people leaving water for hikers at trail heads, he would have been desperate in New Jersey. But he added, "There's no such thing as a terrible part of the trail."
I always ask thru-hikers what the town of Millinocket might be able to do to make their experiences in our community better. As have other hikers before him, he suggested a shuttle, from the Birches, or from the Ranger Station, to Millinocket.
Asked if he would ever hike the Appalachian Trail again, he guessed that there was about a 40% chance that he would; but an 80% chance that he'd hike a different long distance trail instead, possibly a long pathway that is due to open soon in New Zealand.
K-less aid that his thru-hiking experience has changed his life completely. While he had previously worked in the computer security field, he couldn't envision himself going back to that way of life.
"Will I go back to that? ... No, I don't think so."
He's considering becoming a wilderness counselor.